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EDITORIAL: No need for gun sanctuaries in Pa.

York Dispatch Editorial Board
FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2016, file photo, handguns are displayed at the Smith & Wesson booth at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas. The gun industry is gathering for its annual conference, in January 2020, amid a host of uncertainty: slumping gun sales, a public increasingly agitating for restrictions on access to firearms and a presidential campaign that threatens gun rights like perhaps no other time in modern American history. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

In the wake of the bare-knuckled, zero-tolerance immigration policies enacted by the Trump administration, many municipalities — including 18 jurisdictions in Pennsylvania — have declared themselves “sanctuary cities.”

What this means, basically, is that they decline to cooperate with federal immigration agencies by illegally detaining immigrants for pickup. An assault victim who went to the police and was found to be undocumented, for example, cannot be held indefinitely for Immigration and Customs Enforcement; courts have ruled such detainments are unconstitutional.

Thus, immigrants — often productive, family-supporting community members (and just as often the parents of American citizens) — found themselves under siege and were deemed worthy by a great many communities of sanctuary.

Gun owners, to put it mildly, face no such threats and need no such protections.

More:West Manheim Township could be the next 'Second Amendment sanctuary'

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But in yet another example of the privileged majority feigning minority victimhood, gun owners in rural communities nationwide are buying into the so-called “Second Amendment Sanctuary” movement. This despite the fact that:

• There are more guns than people in the United States.

• More than 45% of the world’s civilian firearms are owned by Americans.

• Even as 2019 saw a record number of mass shootings — more than 400 — Congress continues to ignore the issue of gun safety.

• The most recent substantial federal law regarding firearms — signed by President George W. Bush in 2005 — protected gun manufacturers from being sued by victims of gun violence.

Still, just the suggestion of something as mildly inconvenient — and widely popular — as, say, universal background checks for gun purchases elicits howls of opposition and, now, arguments for special protections for gun owners.

Gun rights advocates gather for an annual rally on the steps of the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Monday, May 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

This silliness has made its way into West Manheim Township, where supervisors are scheduled to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would declare the York County municipality a “Second Amendment sanctuary.”

“There are some people who feel that it’s important to make a statement at the municipal level in support of Second Amendment rights,” said West Manheim Township Solicitor Walter Tilley III, who drafted the ordinance. 

There are some people who don’t like the idea of their elementary-school children having to undergo active-shooter drills, too. We don’t see any ordinances addressing that.

And the proposed law wouldn’t just “make a statement” in support of gun rights. As the Dispatch’s Tina Locurto reports, “the ordinance would bar township officials from using township money or personnel to interfere with a gun owner’s rights.”

That’s a conveniently vague and troublingly broad assertion.

It’s also legally suspect. Local ordinances do not supersede state and federal laws, regardless of a municipality’s opinion of the overriding legislation. Legal experts say the sanctuary ordinances have no chance of holding up in court.

As such, the gun sanctuary movement is little more than an overreaction to calls for much-needed measures to curb the nation’s unceasing incidents of gun violence.

Defenders say it puts local lawmakers on record as supporting gun ownership, but that’s a superfluous position in a nation where the right to bear arms is ensconced in the Constitution, is under no threat and has not even been meaningfully curbed in decades. In actuality, it is a symbolic show of defiance to common-sense calls for reasonable gun control.

Declaring rural municipalities sanctuaries for gun owners in America is something akin to declaring Lincoln Financial Field a sanctuary for Eagles fans: It’s self-evident, it’s pointless, and it carries neither legal weight nor moral authority.

West Manheim Township supervisors should ponder this before casting their votes on Tuesday. They can identify their township as a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” but what they would actually be declaring sanctuary from is common sense.