Uintah County becomes Utah’s first second change sanctuary
SALT LAKE CITY – Virginia may be 2,000 miles away, but it was the centerpiece of the Uintah County’s public session last week when the County Commission unanimously voted to become the state’s first sanctuary after the second amendment.
Police in communities in eastern Utah, including the county town of Vernal, will no longer enforce gun laws passed by state and federal lawmakers, which county officials consider unconstitutional. According to The Trace, a nonprofit media company that specializes in gun coverage, over 400 communities across the country have made similar resolutions.
“There is definitely a movement in some of our more liberal neighbors and fellow states like Virginia for their governor and state legislature to seek action against the right to keep and carry arms,” said Uintah County’s assistant district attorney John Stearmer, who clarified the details of the ordinance on Wednesday.
The regulation, which will come into force this month, considers any attempt to restrict gun ownership in Uintah County to be unlawful. This includes any new federal or state law that prohibits or restricts possession of firearms and firearm accessories, taxes or fees charged on firearms that do not apply to other goods, and the registration or tracking of firearms or gun owners.
Uintah County employees who enforce laws that the ordinance defines as unlawful could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.
“It affects Uintah County’s employees and funding only,” said County Commissioner Bill Stringer on Monday.
The ordinance also makes exceptions for felons and others currently banned from possession of a gun, and will not affect the prosecution of a crime involving the use of a firearm, officials note.
Uintah County’s residents overwhelmingly supported the move at the meeting last week, including Sheriff Steve Labrum.
“I appreciate the foresight of our commissioners and the ability to make this happen,” he said. “We don’t want to have to catch up like Virginia and have four counties that administer the entire state.”
The meeting took place the day before the Virginia Senate passed seven bills including red flag laws and universal background checks, the latest step in a month-long effort to revise the state’s gun laws.
Virginia’s push for gun reform has received heavy support and condemnation – The Trace reported that more than 120 cities and counties in Virginia became sanctuaries of the Second Amendment last year. Last month, thousands of armed demonstrators poured into the state capital to protest gun restrictions.
Guns are a hot topic even in Utah’s week-long legislature. Red flag laws, universal background checks, and safe gun storage were at the center of three pieces of legislation enacted by lawmakers last week.
Stringer said the ordinance is a preventative measure to combat the passage of laws he finds unconstitutional.
“I’m actually a little sad that we have to do this, but I think it’s necessary,” he said. “I don’t want to be in the position of Virginia where these counties are doing this as a defense against action that is being taken.”
Stringer also said several Utah counties are considering similar resolutions and have requested copies of the ordinance.
Although Stearmer claimed the ordinance was constitutional, the legality of other sanctuaries of the second amendment has been questioned.
According to The Trace, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said these rulings “have no legal force”; Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said any sheriff who chooses not to enforce the latest gun laws would be held liable; and Colorado’s Attorney General Phil Weiser said sheriffs who do not plan to enforce the state’s gun laws should resign.