Big Horn County Enters Second Amendment Sanctuary Debate

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Big Horn County officials are looking into joining other counties around the state in declaring themselves a sanctuary for the Second Amendment.

Several Wyoming counties have recently passed resolutions declaring themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.” Fremont County, Niobrara, Johnson and Hot Springs County Commissioners have all publicly declared their support for gun rights, taking a stand against what many perceive to be a national anti-gun movement.

Other counties, such as Campbell, Crook and Sweetwater, declared themselves to be Second Amendment Sanctuaries last year.

Big Horn County commissioners are among those considering making the same kind of public statement with a proclamation expressing support for the Second Amendment. 

C.J. Duncan, the mayor of Big Horn County’s seat in Basin, brought the idea to county officials.

He said he is concerned that what he sees as an anti-gun sentiment is becoming more prevalent throughout the country may threaten the rights of law-abiding citizens.

“With our current administration and past administrations at the federal level, gun rights specifically have been under attack,” he said, “even though the majority of people who own and operate guns are doing it within the bounds of the law.” 

However, Duncan added officials are concerned that if counties take too strong a position in favor of gun rights — for instance, if they signed a binding resolution rather than issuing a simple proclamation — local governments might face federal backlash.

“Legal counsel was afraid that if they signed a resolution or something stronger than a resolution, that they might be losing some of their federal grants and some federal funding,” he said.

In Johnson County, the resolution declaring the county a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” specifies that no county resources will be used to enforce federal rules or laws seen as a violation of the Second Amendment.

Duncan said the proclamation is simply a statement that he hopes will send a message to government leaders.

“It declares to the federal government that we take our constitutional rights in Wyoming, especially in Big Horn County, very seriously and expect them to uphold those rights,” he said. “As long as we’re law abiding citizens.”

And that’s the key, according to Duncan.

“I truly feel like the government wants to punish everyone, because you have a few dirtbags out there who don’t live within the guidelines of the laws — and quite frankly, a criminal’s not going to,” Duncan said. “That’s why they’re criminals. And this is common sense, it’s not rocket science.”

He said that he does not support the idea of allowing convicted felons to possess firearms.

“I personally feel strongly that when someone breaks the law, they have infringed on someone else’s rights – and once convicted, once the due process has taken place, then they are forfeiting their constitutional rights,” which Duncan says includes the right to bear arms. 

Big Horn County is inviting the public to a listening session on May 3 to discuss the sanctuary proclamation. 

According to the notice, “Big Horn County desires to proceed in a way that not only upholds the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of Wyoming, but is also in the best interests of our citizens and law enforcement officers.”

Duncan said he is hoping that the county commissioners will support a resolution, which takes a legal stance, rather than a simple proclamation.

“I really truly feel like a proclamation would sell our Second Amendment, constitutional rights for federal dollars – and I’m not willing to do that,” he said.

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