HENDERSON, Ky. - After a handful of Kentucky counties have adopted "Second Amendment sanctuary" measures in response to gun law proposals in Kentucky and elsewhere, Henderson Fiscal Court is preparing to take a different tact on Tuesday.
Henderson County Judge-executive Brad Schneider said after talking with magistrates individually, the panel on Tuesday will consider a resolution "in support of Kentucky and United States Constitutional rights and rejecting an infringement of fundamental rights." (see sidebar for full text of resolution.)
Schneider said he and the magistrates have already taken an oath of office "and in that oath, we vow to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Kentucky."
He said their intention with the new resolution is to reaffirm their support for those guiding charters "and never pass any legislation at the local level that would run afoul of those documents. And we're going to urge the General Assembly to remember their similar oaths. And we will object in advance to any state or federal legislation that would be contrary to the rights conferred in the Kentucky and U.S. constitutions."
There is no mention of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in the court's proposed resolution. "We don't single out any particular amendment," Schneider said.
That isn't enough for some, who have taken the Republican judge-executive to task on social media threads for not supporting Henderson as an outright "Second Amendment sanctuary."
A recent Facebook response to the judge's reasoning, for example, ended with one writer asking pointedly: "Bradley Schneider do you stand for or against Henderson County becoming 2A Sanctuary? A simple 'for' or 'against' answer is all I'm asking."
Lynn Julian, also writing on Facebook, replied to a Gleaner query with the following:
"There are many of us who feel this (gun control measures) is an encroachment upon our Rights and our property. So much misinformation is given to the public by politicians ... Our founders felt very strongly about the issue of self protection as should we as well. And no one has the power or should have the power to limit or remove that."
Schneider said the court will take up the issue because "there were requests online hoping that Henderson County would do this and the number of those posts were growing. And a couple of those folks had contacted one of our magistrates (Tim Southard), wanting to know what we are going to do. In order to answer those, I had a conversation with that magistrate and individually with all of them to take the temperature, as it were, and I offered this idea of reaffirming our commitment to all of the Constitution."
He said it's not as simple as some of those advocating "sanctuary" resolutions want to believe.
"There were some things in those resolutions that gave me pause and gave other magistrates pause ... there was a sense that some of those resolutions went too far," Schneider said.
"In many of those examples that I saw, there were bullet points and paragraphs talking about a county vowing not to devote any of its resources to helping enforce any laws having to do with gun control that it considered to be unconstitutional."
The county judge said "you can't pick or choose" what laws to enforce or follow. "That's not how our state or country is run."
"We're a nation of law and order. I'm a law-and-order Republican ... At its core, are you going to declare that a community will pick and choose what laws to enforce?"
The other side of that coin, Schneider said, is "who judges in a county what state or federal proposed laws are unconstitutional? The answer is, there is no one and we shouldn't have anyone doing that. Because we have a system of checks and balances" that includes lawmakers and courts at both the state and federal levels.
"It's not up to counties or groups of people in counties to decide what is or isn't constitutional."
"I'm a hunter. I own guns, and I'm not in favor of gun control," said Republican, NRA member and first-term magistrate Southard, who represents the southwestern portion of Henderson County. "But we have to do this at the state level, not at the county level."
He also said the court's resolution, which is up for consideration Tuesday, is an important symbol and gesture that he supports, but it's still just that.
"We can pass a resolution. But I don't want to give them a false sense of security. You know, we can pass whatever. But regardless of what we pass, it's what happens in Frankfort. We've taken an oath to enforce the law.
"I've encouraged everyone who's contacted me to make sure they stay in contact with their representatives and their senators and make sure they knew where they stood."
As for other counties (mostly in eastern Kentucky) that have passed "Second Amendment Sanctuary" proclamations, Southard said, "they're taking the easy road. The fiscal court and Brad (Schneider), we've taken some heat over what we've decided to do. But when it's all said and done, what we're doing is just as powerful as what they're doing.
"They're just caving to the pressure, and sometimes we just need to be real and tell them how it really is. And I feel like they're not doing that. I feel like they're misleading their people."
Where did this originate?
Several current events seem to have stirred the recent push for "2nd Amendment sanctuaries."
A so-called Red Flag law is likely to be voted on during the current Kentucky legislative session.
According to a Louisville Courier Journal story from Tuesday, Kentucky Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, is working to draft the bill that would allow an individual’s firearms to be taken temporarily, at the least, if the person is deemed dangerous.
"Supporters say it could prevent suicides, domestic violence and mass shootings,"
said the article. "Critics say it could infringe on Second Amendment rights."
Rep. Jeff Donohue, D-Fairdale, has also pre-filed Bill Request 354, which would ban the possession or transfer of assault weapons and requires current gun owners to register what the bill defines as assault weapons.
State Sen. Robby Mills of Henderson, is among those who have publicly said those types of efforts are unlikely to go anywhere in a "rural dominated, 2nd Amendment protecting Kentucky Legislature."
Meanwhile, in neighboring Virginia, a "super majority" of Democrats was recently elected to govern the state.
The governor and lawmakers there promised to take this opportunity to advance gun control measures, and in response a majority of Virginia counties outside of the Washington, D.C. metro area have pushed back by proclaiming themselves as "2nd Amendment sanctuaries" in much the same way that other large metro areas have announced their boundaries as "sanctuary cities" for undocumented immigrants.
Tuesday's court session
Tuesday's session of Henderson Fiscal Court begins at 9:30 a.m. on the third floor of the county courthouse building beside Central Park.
Judge-executive Schneider said there is no formal public hearing planned about the rights resolution, but he will allow people to address the court about this or other matters as is the usual practice.
But again, he stressed, "I think it's important to be consistent with what the Constitution says about how we determine and solidify our laws. The system of checks and balances ... declaring yourself exempt from those processes, even if it's just symbolic, I think is a bad message to send."
Proposed resolution coming before Henderson Fiscal Court ...
"A RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF KENTUCKY AND UNITED STATES CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AND REJECTING ANY INFRINGEMENT OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS"
WHEREAS, each member of the Henderson County Fiscal Court has solemnly sworn a public oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky; and
WHEREAS, it is the duty and obligation of the Henderson County Fiscal Court to support, uphold and defend the sanctity of the United States and Kentucky constitutions for the protection and welfare of its citizens; and
WHEREAS, the Henderson County Fiscal Court wishes to express its strong commitment to the rights of citizens of Henderson County enumerated in the United States and Kentucky constitutions; and
WHEREAS, the Henderson County Fiscal Court wishes to reaffirm unwavering support for the United States and Kentucky constitutions by objecting in advance to any federal or state legislation judged to be contrary to the rights conferred therein; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Henderson County Fiscal Court this 14th day of January, 2020 as follows:
1. That the Henderson County Fiscal Court reaffirms its Oath of Office to support the United States and Kentucky constitutions;
2. That the Henderson Fiscal Court shall hereby honor and uphold always the oath each individual member has duly taken to support the United States and Kentucky constitutions, and shall do so by pledging this day never to propose or pass local legislation contrary to or eroding those rights and fundamental principles granted and held within these instruments of freedom;
3. That the Henderson County Fiscal Court hereby acknowledges that the United States Constitution and the Kentucky Constitution are the highest laws of the land.