Wasatch County Holds First Public Hearing Over Second Amendment Sanctuary Proposal
The Wasatch County Council took public input for almost 3 hours on Wednesday night to consider becoming a Second Amendment “sanctuary county” via citizen’s initiative.
The majority of the public comments were in support of the ordinance.
Wasatch County Councilor Kendall Crittenden said he was approached by a group of residents a year ago asking the county to address concerns that they were losing their legal right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. He said the committee organized in August and has criticized him for dragging his feet, but he supports the ordinance fully.
Crittenden said there were more than 50 people in the council chamber during the hearing.
"And I just felt strongly during that period of time, that when we were doing Zoom meetings, we weren't even meeting as a council,” he said. “This is an issue that we couldn't do on a TV screen. This was an issue that we needed to get together and sit across the table from each other and talk about things and look at the people's faces and expressions and ideas and their body language as we talked about some sensitive issues. And that's why we delayed it, and it took till now, and here we are."
The debate over gun rights in Wasatch County comes during a spate of mass shootings across the country, the most recent of which claimed 8 lives in a FedEx facility in Indianapolis on April 15.
Input came from in-person and online participants. One grandmother said she is proud to be part of a group that supports the United States Constitution.
"I'm not out rioting in the streets,” she said. “I am not a radical person. I want to tell you that I am a part of an amazing group of people that are here who are passionate, honest, they're educated, they're loyal. They are patriots. And I know when push comes to shove, they're the people I want to be with. I'm also extremely proud to live in a community with a sheriff like Sheriff Rigby, who I believe is fighting for my rights. There's an obligation to the people, not an obligation to the county."
Timber Lakes resident Gary Hughes was on the Second Amendment committee and said that he was watched his gun rights erode over the past 30 years.
"We do not want a resolution, period,” he said. “We want an ordinance. And we don't want an ordinance that's worded to be a resolution, Which is based on talking with members of the committee, what they kept getting from the county attorney's office. We don't want that. Our sheriff doesn't want that. Our sheriff is the man who's going to bear most of the responsibility of this ordinance, and he drafted it om conjunction with the citizen’s committee with normal people."
Heber City Councilmember Heidi Franco said the ordinance presents an implied danger to the Constitution even though it appears harmless.
"It can ultimately reject the very constitutional authority that the Wasatch County Council is based on,” Franco said. “I believe that this ordinance will undermine your legitimacy. It appears to send a very real message that at the very least fosters disrespect and fear and at the very worst might foster actual rebellion against the very constitutional authority that we all claim to love and are showing up here to promote tonight. I feel like this rhetoric of anti-government and personal rights at any cost, even with violence to others, and its supposed legitimatization of any attack on any government action, I feel that these are awful underlying messages."
Resident Jennifer Lee, speaking in opposition to the ordinance, said citizens already have the right to own guns, and the state protects that right adequately. She said common sense, gun safety laws don't infringe on lawful gun owners, and that the county government should not spend time changing legitimately established laws through ordinances.
“About the idea of our county legislative body and the sheriff not only stating that they will not authorize the enforcement of democratically created laws but adopting an ordinance enshrining that,” she said. “There is, as others have mentioned, already a process in place to oppose a law that you do not agree with and that is the path that citizens should take.”
Wasatch County Attorney McKay King, who advises the county council on constitutional issues, said the ordinance is a political statement.
"There were four things that we felt like need to be changed, three of them are basically just verbiage, but the most important concern that we found was that references to the Second and Fourth Amendment in this ordinance are not in any way tied to those structures of the Constitution,” King said. “They're not in any way tied to how the Constitution is designed to interpret itself."
The Second Amendment sanctuary ordinance will return to the Wasatch County Council on May 12 during its regular meeting.