Our Opinion: Wilson County commissioners should support 2nd Amendment

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Gun rights supporters plan to ask Wilson County commissioners for a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution during Monday’s meeting. But commissioners may have already made up their minds.

County officials released a statement from Board of Commissioners Chairman Rob Boyette last week. The document includes all seven board members’ names and its title indicates it was written on the entire board’s behalf.

Boyette notes that each commissioner swears an oath of office to “support and maintain the Constitution and laws of the United States” along with North Carolina’s state constitution and laws. The oath, he says, means commissioners have already committed to defend Wilson County residents’ civil liberties, which include gun rights because they’re part of the Constitution.

“Every commissioner has also expressed their commitment to the rights of citizens in Wilson County to keep and bear arms,” Boyette wrote. “All amendments to the U.S. Constitution have equal standing as the law of the land. To single out one particular amendment could be construed by some as elevating that amendment to a rank superior to others.”

For Second Amendment advocates, the statement is a mixed bag.

On one hand, kudos to commissioners for writing a unanimous declaration of support for the right to bear arms. It’s encouraging that a board with four Democrats and three Republicans can speak in a clear, unified voice devoid of the partisan rancor that often accompanies gun debates.

On the other hand, the statement suggests commissioners have rejected residents’ plea to adopt a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution before letting these constituents make their case during a public meeting.

Claiming that passing a gun rights resolution would be playing favorites is an artful dodge that sounds more like an excuse than a reason. Do your elected representatives really believe formalizing their support for the Second Amendment would be some kind of slight against the other 26 constitutional amendments?

Support and preference aren’t the same thing. Choosing to recognize Black History Month, for example, doesn’t indicate prejudice against other racial and ethnic groups that seek ceremonial recognition at other times. Encouraging participation in the Relay for Life doesn’t mean cancer patients are more worthy of help than people with other diseases.

Following this faulty reasoning to its logical conclusion would paralyze the county board. Each dollar pledged for a specific purpose can’t be used for other possible purposes. How can you pass a budget if anything that helps one county department is seen as somehow disadvantaging the rest? Public policy decisions needn’t always be a zero-sum game.

Local governments throughout North Carolina — as of this writing, two thirds of our state’s 100 counties — have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions not because the Second is “superior” to the First or the Fourth or the Sixth, but because it’s the amendment most in danger of dilution and sabotage.

The gun rights sanctuary movement entered the national spotlight as a backlash to a barrage of new gun control bills in Virginia. Cities and counties in the Old Dominion sent a message to Richmond: Our residents value their Second Amendment rights and oppose tacking on any more limitations to them, and as their representatives, we stand in solidarity with these law-abiding citizens.

Proponents of Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions here want to send the same message to Raleigh. Groups like North Carolinians Against Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety are advocating for legislation that mirrors Virginia’s.

Second Amendment supporters oppose gun violence. They believe responsible gun owners should have the right to arm themselves against would-be thieves, robbers and killers without any more red tape than already exists.

In the span of a month, more than 2,100 people have joined a Facebook petition group calling for Wilson County to become a Second Amendment sanctuary. Neighboring counties including Johnston, Wayne and Pitt have already approved the designation, and proponents are working to pass resolutions in Nash and Greene counties.

All indications point to a capacity crowd at Monday’s Wilson County Board of Commissioners meeting. Most in attendance will ask commissioners to advocate for their interests and adopt a resolution supporting gun ownership rights.

Commissioners should listen to their constituents and oblige the request.