What began as a fairly straightforward county proclamation addressing the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution instead generated disagreement over the absence rather than the presence of a single word.
Johnson County Sheriff Adam King, joined by the county’s four constables, delivered the proclamation during Monday’s meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners Court.
King, the four county commissioners and constables and County Judge Roger Harmon all signed the proclamation.
Through the proclamation, the signatories “declare Johnson County’s support of the Second Amendment.”
Precinct 3 Commissioner Jerry Stringer, although he signed it, joined others in declaring the proclamation watered down.
Stringer, a 30-plus year National Rifle Association member, said he and King had both wanted to craft such a proclamation for some time now and worked on the wording together.
The original language proclaimed Johnson County as a Second Amendment sanctuary county.
“Because of third powers that be we had to take that language out of it,” Stringer said. “I don’t agree with it. That is my personal opinion, not the court speaking.”
The language in question being the specific word sanctuary.
One audience member in the courtroom blurted “Damn straight,” in agreement with Stringer’s sentiments.
Burleson resident and self-described Texas State Rifle Association supporter Keith Kelly spoke during the meeting’s public participation section before the reading of the proclamation.
Kelly commended county officials for their support but also questioned the proclamation.
“I understand this proclamation is watered down a little bit today because we didn’t have the word sanctuary in it,” Kelly said. “That because we might lose some federal funding or state funding. Let me tell you gentlemen, we’re going ot have to make tougher decisions than that. If you’re going to withhold your support of the Second Amendment over some federal or state funding then we have a problem.”
“Speaking from the sheriff’s position, if it requires the signature of the sheriff that we will comply with unconstitutional gun rules in order to receive federal funds then it’s not going to happen,” King said. “We need to wean ourselves off this federal money anyway. It comes with too many strings attached. We need to stand up and stand for what’s right regardless of the consequences.”
Precinct 1 Commissioner Rick Bailey stressed that elected officials swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, state and local laws something Bailey argued makes designating Johnson County as a Second Amendment sanctuary county problematic.
“I reached out to legal counsel at the Texas Association of Counties and his thought was that we don’t want to be in the mix of sanctuary cities or harboring illegal aliens,” Bailey said. “The word sanctuary has a bigger role than what has been discussed here regarding state regulations and such.”
Stringer countered that the word sanctuary as planned for use in the county’s proclamation has nothing to do with illegal aliens or sanctuary cities for harboring them.
“I believe the people of Johnson County are smart enough to know the difference between illegal aliens and Second Amendment rights,” Stringer said.
Stringer and others argued that the protections of the Second Amendment bolster and protect the validity of the remaining rights.
“Second,” Stringer said. “If we had done a Second Amendment sanctuary county proclamation and we were not going to get federal funds because of that then I don’t want the money,” Stringer said. “Because of the kind of strings that are going to be tied to that, they can keep the money.
“And to the degree that there are any kind of repercussions because of that from any organization or anybody, bring it on.”
County Attorney Bill Moore said he does not believe the proclamation as written is watered down.
“The main reason I took the sanctuary language out is I think sanctuary, the term, has a bad connotation,” Moore said. “I don’t see how a proclamation saying you’re supporting the Second Amendment is watered down. I think that’s exactly what you’re doing.”
Because elected officials take an oath to uphold the laws of the land, Moore argued that it’s best to err on caution’s side given that sanctuary county designation, as it pertains to the Second Amendment, could possibly conflict with that duty to uphold laws.
“Because of the connotation of sanctuary county I did not want someone to come back and say you’re violating your oath of office,” Moore said. “I think by saying you’re supporting the Second Amendment that goes along exactly with the oath you take and no one can claim you’re violating that oath.”
About 100 attended Monday’s meeting in support of the proclamation including a number of Johnson County Sheriff’s Office deputies and other law enforcement officers.
“They’re here because they believe in the Second Amendment and believe [in people’s] rights to own weapons,” Stringer said of the officers. “In doing that I think the inference of Second Amendment rights in Johnson County is obvious and I thank [the officers] for being here today. That spoke a lot to me.”
Burleson resident Baker Hughes said the founding fathers realized the importance of the Second Amendment and that we would be wise to remember it too.
“The Second Amendment was not written because of hunters,” Hughes said. “Our forefathers had just liberated the nation from the yoke of tyranny and this amendment was there because they knew what human nature was.”
Kelly noted that 85 Virginia counties have adopted similar sanctuary proclamations.
“Naturally, the attorney general has come out and said, ‘Well, [the proclamations] don’t carry any weight,’” Kelly said. “But what they’re really doing is sending a message to those in the state house and in Washington D.C. that the citizens are standing up and saying, ‘No, don’t do that.’”