Citizens request Crawford County be a Second Amendment sanctuary

Ty Thompson
Press Argus-Courier
Guns on display at A&B pawn in Van Buren. Residents petitioned the Quorum Court to have Crawford County become a Second Amendment Sanctuary.

A group of Crawford County residents petitioned the Quorum Court at the meeting on Monday to make Crawford County a Second Amendment and Bill of Rights sanctuary.

A Second Amendment sanctuary is a state, county, or locality that has adopted laws or resolutions that oppose the enforcement of certain gun control measures.

However, according to a state law passed in 2010, local government cannot enact an ordinance pertaining to firearms that differs from what is provided in state or federal law. 

"We come to you tonight as concerned American citizens who believe that our voices have been silenced by an out-of-touch and out-of-control government in Washington D.C.," Leigh Wendlandt said.

Wendlandt handed out a draft ordinance to court members written by Mike Rainwater, an attorney for the Association of Arkansas Counties Risk Management Fund. In it, Rainwater proposes the county recognize the Bill of Rights and Second Amendment without interfering with state or federal laws.

Justice Jason Peppas said the ordinance is closer to a resolution as it does not pass any regulation and only contains statements in support of the Second Amendment and Bill of Rights. 

Rainwater's ordinance covers several of the bills of rights such as the right of unreasonable search and seizure, right to bear arms, due process, and equal protection. 

"Number one, is for the county to know that we stand for the Second Amendment and our constitutional rights," Steve Whitlock, a county resident, said of reasons why he wants the ordinance passed. "Second is to send a message to a state legislature about our Second Amendment rights at a state level." 

Whitlock said it would also be a rebuke on a federal level, referring to President Joe Biden's recent message to Congress expressing a desire to enact commonsense gun laws. This includes background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons, and banning high-capacity magazines. 

"Making many of us in this room criminals," Whitlock said. 

Attorney David Dunnigan said the position of the prosecutor's office and Prosecuting Attorney Rinda Baker that the county should not pass the ordinance. 

"We believe that would be unconstitutional," Dunnigan said of passing the ordinance.

"We see no problem with passing a resolution encouraging the legislatures to address this," he said. "But it is our position that this has to be addressed by the legislature."

As a resolution is a formal opinion adopted by a vote, it would not be in violation of the ordinance. Councilman Jason Peppas said he would sponsor the resolution since most of the people in attendance were in his district. 

Instead of passing Rainwater's Ordinance, the court will work on a resolution to make sure the language is consistent with the current laws.

In January 2020, Scott County was the first county in Arkansas to pass an ordinance declaring itself a Bill of Rights sanctuary, followed by Independence County.

In June of 2020, Sebastian County rejected a similar ordinance to make the county a Bill of Rights sanctuary.