From Meeteetse to Clark and Cody to Powell, the Park County commissioners have declared the county will be a place of preservation for the right to bear arms, no matter what federal changes may come in the future.
That was the resolution the commissioners passed at their meeting Tuesday, declaring Park County a “Second Amendment Preservation County.”
The resolution, with written-in support from Park County Sheriff Scott Steward, passed with a unanimous vote. It is intended to prevent firearms from being confiscated by federal agencies under federal laws that may be passed in the future.
“The Park County Board of Commissioners and the Park County Sheriff harken back to and recognize the words set forth in the Declaration of Independence as provides wise guidance in the implementation of governance in Park County,”reads the resolution, which goes on to cite the Constitution’s right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” and the right to bear arms.
“The board and sheriff strongly believe that it is an inalienable right of the citizens of Park County to keep and bear arms for the defense of life, liberty and property.”
The resolution also cites a historical and cultural relationship with firearms being used for economic, recreational, hunting and shooting purposes in the county as granted under the U.S. and Wyoming constitutions.
Commissioner Chairman Lee Livingston said he hasn’t heard any opposition to this resolution but said, “Now that it’s out there I’m sure we’ll hear it.”
In March, Biden issued a number of executive orders addressing gun control by increasing regulations on stabilizing braces and studying homemade “ghost” guns. Biden also announced he wants to strengthen the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the agency in charge of enforcing federal gun laws, by nominating gun-control advocate David Chapman to lead it.
More recently, the House of Representatives passed a bill to expand background checks, and another bill that grants authorities 10 business days to complete federal background checks before a gun sale must be approved or rejected, an increase from the current three days.
Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has said he opposes the legislation but nearly two-thirds of Americans support stricter gun laws, according to a March USA Today-Ipsos poll and more than 80% support universal background checks, according to a 2019 PBS NewsHour, National Public Radio and Marist poll.
In April, Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) introduced legislation to reinstate the right for people ages 18-20 to purchase a handgun from a federally licensed dealer, which repeals a law that currently prevents adults under 21 from buying a handgun.
Commissioner Joe Tilden said he is a believer of the "slippery slope" philosophy when it comes to gun control.
"With the way the current administration has been going ... they're just going to keep nipping and nipping away," he said. "Eventually they're going to do away with everything."
Livingston said the county’s resolution was based on a similar commitment made by the Johnson County commissioners in April, and that he had been “approached” about the topic. Big Horn County held a listening session on Monday for its consideration of becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary.
Johnson County’s resolution appeared to go a little farther than the resolution passed in Cody on Tuesday, in that it stated funds from the county treasury, county personnel and county resources cannot be “used in a manner to abridge the rights of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms as an individual right."
The Park County resolution does not address any language about officials or authorities being restricted from confiscating firearms and is more of a vague commitment to the Second Amendment and providing legal binding individuals the right to keep and bear arms.
“We just thought it would be a cleaner way to go,” Livingston said.
In this year’s state legislative session, lawmakers attempted to pass Senate File 81, which would have passed a Second Amendment Preservation Act statewide. The bill enacted through the Senate with a 24-6 vote and had the support of Sen. Tim French (R-Cody) but was not received in the House for introduction.
All 23 Wyoming sheriffs including Steward voiced concerns about the bill in a letter sent to the Wyoming legislature. They said while the bill was intended to be in support of the Second Amendment, it had possible unintended repercussions that hurt their law enforcement efforts. Specifically, the bill said no person, including law enforcement officers, has the authority to enforce any federal law that infringes on a person’s right to keep or bear arms and could be held liable for such actions. This could have put officers’ jobs in limbo for seizing firearms as evidence in criminal disputes and incidents related to domestic violence.
“When you have all 23 sheriffs in the state come out in opposition to some of that, it says there’s problems with it,” Livingston said. “I’m pretty sure if you’ve got a situation like that (domestic dispute) you don’t want to tie your law enforcements hands from protecting the folks that you need to protect.”
The proposal declared that the federal government cannot enact “any federal statutes, executive orders, court orders, rules, regulations or other actions that collect data or restrict or prohibit the manufacture, ownership and use of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition exclusively within the borders of Wyoming.” This would have been legally unenforceable. But Federal agents have been inconsistent when it comes to the enforcement of federal laws that contradict state laws, such as the regulation of marijuana in recreational marijuana states, abortion clinics, and equal opportunities for education (Brown v. Board of Education).
Livingston said the proclamation does not use the term “sanctuary,” so to avoid confusion with unrelated topics like recreational marijuana and illegal immigration that have been associated with that term.
“I personally would like to see us be a sanctuary county with grizzly bears and wolves as far as prosecution for managing them,” he joked. “But we’re already a sanctuary county for grizzly bears, I want to flip it the other way.”