Commissioners declare Morgan County as Second Amendment Sanctuary

by Kate Shunney

Morgan County officials, in response to what they described as persistent and widespread requests from county residents, last week took the step to declare the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary.

In a unanimous vote following the reading of a three-page document during the June 16 commission meeting, County Commissioners adopted a Resolution in support of firearms ownership rights and pledging not to aid in any actions that would “unconstitutionally restrict” second amendment rights. Read the full Proclamation here: Second Amendment Sanctuary Proclamation Morgan County

Commission President Joel Tuttle, in introducing the agenda item, said he has had “a number of people” ask him why Morgan County had not declared itself a Second Amendment sanctuary county as dozens of other West Virginia counties have done.

Tuttle said he believes 37 of West Virginia’s 55 counties have taken that step.

Tuttle has read commentary from other elected county officials around the state and articles on the issue, he said. Some of those have been positive and some negative, said Tuttle.

While there are several versions of the resolution or proclamation being adopted, Tuttle said Morgan County’s version includes a paragraph that the county “recognizes that federal and state laws are presumed constitutional until finally declared otherwise by a court of appropriate jurisdiction.”

That section would serve to short-circuit any concerns that a sanctuary designation means Morgan County would refuse to comply with or enforce laws regarding firearms restrictions, Tuttle explained.

The first seven sections of the Resolution reference the Second Amendment of the U.S Constitution, case law regarding private firearm ownership and the Constitution of West Virginia.

The document then states, “The Morgan County Commission is concerned about the passage of any law or government action that would unconstitutionally infringe upon the rights of the citizens of Morgan County to keep and bear arms; and

“Whereas, The Morgan County Commission expresses its deep commitment to the rights of all law-abiding citizens of Morgan county to keep and bear arms as constitutionally protected; and

“Whereas, The Morgan County Commission expresses opposition to and discourages the enactment of laws that would unconstitutionally restrict the rights of the citizens of Morgan County to keep and bear arms; and

“Whereas, The Morgan County Commission recognizes that the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has held that ‘The West Virginia legislature may, through the valid exercise of its police power, reasonably regulate the right of a person to keep and bear arms in order to promote the health, safety and welfare of all citizens of this State, provided that the restrictions or regulations imposed do not frustrate the constitutional freedoms guaranteed by Article III, Section 22 of the West Virginia Constitution, known as the ‘Right to Keep and Bear Arms Amendment’…

“Whereas, The Morgan County Commission recognizes that the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has held that ‘It is axiomatic that the regulation and control of dangerous and deadly weapons is exclusively within the police power of the State exercised through the Legislature and not the Judiciary’…

“Whereas, the Morgan County Commission stands as a sanctuary county for Second Amendment rights and opposes any efforts to unconstitutionally restrict such rights; and to use such reasonable and legal means to protect the rights of the citizens of Morgan County to keep and bear arms; and

“Whereas, the Morgan County Commission has the full support and cooperation of the Sheriff of Morgan County to help protect and uphold these second amendment rights.

“Therefore, Be It Resolved by the Morgan County Commission, that Morgan County West Virginia is a ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary’ and

“Be it further resolved, that the Morgan County Commission will not use public funds to violate Second Amendment rights; and

“Be it further resolved, that the Morgan County Commission will not aid federal or state agencies in violation of Second Amendment Rights.”

Prior to voting 3-0 in favor of the Resolution, Commissioner Sean Forney said when other counties started considering declaring themselves as Second Amendment sanctuaries, he started getting questions from constituents about whether Morgan County would do the same,

“They asked, ‘Hey—why hasn’t Morgan County done that?’,” Forney said.

Commissioner Bill Clark added that he has gotten similar questions from county residents.

“It’s definitely been one of the things I get the most comments about – second only to broadband,” said Clark. “This is just to remove all doubts this is an issue.”

Tuttle said as a sanctuary county, Morgan County officials would “fight the good fight” against firearms restrictions.

Forney said in some locales, officials have encouraged their citizens to hand over or turn in their firearms.

Sheriff K.C. Bohrer said the West Virginia Sheriff’s Association has also resolved that their members “will not support any constitutional overreach” when it comes to lawful firearms ownership.

County officials said that stance doesn’t negate laws restricting gun or weapons ownership by those who aren’t lawfully permitted to have them.

Non-resident carry permits

In related business, Sheriff Bohrer told commissioners that a new state law takes effect in July that allows the Sheriff’s Department to issue a non-resident concealed carry permit.

That means individuals who don’t live in West Virginia can go through the West Virginia concealed carry permit process and have a permit to carry in the state and the 37 other states with which West Virginia has concealed carry reciprocity agreements.

West Virginia residents can carry a firearm in the open without a permit, and can carry one concealed without a concealed carry permit. State residents can still go through the application process to get a permit, which includes a background check and concealed carry training.

Under the new law, non-residents can also go through that permit process to carry in the state.

Bohrer said that will be particularly attractive to Maryland residents, where gun ownership and carry laws are much more restrictive.

“I think we’ll have a line out the door,” said Bohrer.