HOLLYWOOD, Md. (February 13, 2020)—County Commissioner John O'Connor said this week that St. Mary's County should resolve to become a Second Amendment sanctuary county.
"I think it's important, after watching what's going on in Annapolis, that we take that initiative," O'Connor said at the Feb. 11 business meeting of the Commissioners of St. Mary's County.
Local gun rights advocates have been speaking privately for months about encouraging local elected leaders to make the move, which would mirror the more than 90 counties in Virginia that have already done so.
Where gun rights once appeared secure in Virginia, which has been strongly Republican for the last generation, a recent shift in power towards the Democrats there in the state government has emboldened Gov. Ralph Northam to back a bevy of gun control laws, including an assault weapons ban that includes a prohibition on owning high capacity ammunition magazines.
The rapid shift in power in Richmond ignited the Second Amendment sanctuary movement just as quickly.
In the Maryland General Assembly, a new bill threatens to tighten restrictions on certain so-called assault weapons even further, imposing strict costs for their registration if the new law is passed.
Many such weapons were banned from further sale in 2013 the legislature.
John Mountjoy, a local gun rights advocate, said he and others started the sanctuary movement after the dramatic changes in Virginia; the climate in Annapolis towards their point of view had also chilled further.
"We're being blatantly ignored," Mountjoy said. "The current incumbents... they will not listen to us."
Commissioner Todd Morgan said that the commissioners, Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron and State's Attorney Richard Fritz should have a public conversation on the issue.
"I'm a strong supporter of [the Second Amendment] and [Second Amendment] rights," Morgan said.
In a statement to The County Times, Commissioner Eric Colvin said: "I think having the sheriff, state's attorney and all the commissioners on the same page will send a strong message that St. Mary's County is a strong supporter of the Constitution."
County Attorney David Weiskopf said he was researching the issue and what legal force, and ramifications, such a resolution or decision would have.
"I'm still researching it," Weiskopf said, adding he planned on making a report to the commissioners in the next several weeks on his findings.
St. Mary's County, a Republican stronghold in a Democrat-controlled Maryland, has shown broad support for the Second Amendment.
Last year, at the county GOP sponsored Lincoln/Reagan Day Dinner, Cameron told attendees "no St. Mary's County law enforcement it going to go into homes and take guns."
His comments were in response to then Democrat presidential candidate Robert "Beto" O'Rourke's vocal support of confiscating legally owned military-style rifles.
Cameron called such plans illegal and unconstitutional.
"I support the idea of St. Mary's County being a Second Amendment sanctuary," Cameron said Wednesday. "Largely it's symbolic, but it's very important symbolism.
"It sends a clear and distinct message to our legislators."
Cameron said he would press challenges in the courts to gun control laws that were unconstitutional to seek relief.
If St. Mary's enacted a resolution declaring it a Second Amendment sanctuary, it would be the fourth county in Maryland to do so; Carroll, Cecil and Harford counties have already adopted such declarations.
Calls to Fritz's office seeking comment were not returned as of press time.
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