PARIS — During the public comment session at a Paris Board of Selectmen meeting on May 13, Paris resident Dennis Creaser asked the board to consider a resolution designating the town as a second amendment sanctuary.

Dennis Creaser, owner of Creaser Jewelers in Paris, proposed that Paris consider “second amendment sanctuary” status at a public comment section May 13. Sun Journal photo by Jon Bolduc

Creaser said he was inspired to bring the proposal to the board after reading of several Rhode Island towns that have recently adopted similar resolutions. One rural town in the northwest corner of Rhode Island, Burrillville,  recently adopted such measures.

According to Donald Fox, the Burrillville Councilman who sponsored the bill,  the impetus for the resolution stemmed from what he perceived to be tightening gun legislation that he thinks could someday lead to gun confiscation.

“It basically says that if you’re going to pass gun confiscation legislation, legislation that we deem unconstitutional, you better fund it, because Burrillville won’t fund the confiscation of guns … honestly this is an attempt to push back on what I call the progressive creep in Rhode Island,” said Fox.

The resolution “declares Hopkinton’s support for the Second Amendment and the protection of “Hopkinton Citizens’ inalienable and individual right to keep and bear arms” and is a direct response to municipalities declaring themselves “sanctuary cities,” according to news accounts in the Westerly Sun in Rhode Island.

Creaser said his motivation is largely the same as the Rhode Island towns; he thinks that gun laws are tightening, and the “slippery slope” could one day slide to full-scale gun confiscation.

“I felt that with the current atmosphere in Augusta regarding gun rights, now might be a good time to try and implement our own similar resolutions, and possibly inspire other communities to do the same, and send a message to  Augusta that we really don’t find this acceptable,” said Creaser during a May 14 interview at his store, Creaser’s Jewelers in Paris. 

“Pending legislative has nothing to do with preventing unlikely gun violence in Maine, but everything to do with special interest and lobbyist groups using Maine as practice and testing grounds for gun control efforts,” said Creaser.   He said the term specifically references so called sanctuary cities that violate, prohibit, or discourage local efforts to enforce immigration laws.  He said that if local, state, or federal entities infringe on second amendment rights, the citizens should be able to send a message. And he said a second amendment sanctuary designation does just that.

“Why shouldn’t the citizens send a message to that entity that we don’t find this acceptable, we don’t agree with it, and we’re not going to follow it. This sort of civil disobedience started sometime in the 1700’s with that wonderful Declaration of Independence,” said Creaser. 

But Geoff Bickford, executive director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, disagrees.

Unnecessary

“There’s a big difference between symbolic act and an act of civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is willfully violating a law to prove some bigger message to defy what you feel is an unjust law, and you’re actually taking a affirmative step in that way. A symbolic gesture, which I would agree this is, is expressing your beliefs on the subject. But when it comes to local officials enforcing state law, that’s where there’s going to be an issue,” said Bickford. 

According to Bickford, the many second amendment sanctuary states, towns, and cities in the country claim that state officers won’t enforce federal gun laws that they see as being in violation of the second amendment, an issue that’s not up to them to decide. 

“It’s not up to the local officials to decide what laws pass muster under the Constitution of the United States, or under the state’s constitution; that’s a decision for state lawmakers and for bills signed into effect by the Governor. If there’s a question about whether or not those are constitutional, those issues are litigated in a court of law,” said Bickford. 

Bickford also disagrees with the assertion that proposed legislation in Augusta is restrictive, let alone in violation of the state or federal constitutions.

“As someone who has participated in both drafting and supporting bills, directly and supporting other bills, there’s not a single bill in Augusta right now that would permanently remove someone’s ability to have a firearm or restrict an entire class of firearms … the over generalization that they’re coming for our guns, they’re going to get our guns … most of the bills in Augusta are aimed at suicide prevention, preventing accidental shootings by encouraging folks to store their firearms safely, and there’s the class of weapon prohibited under one bill is preventing folks from generating 3D-printed guns at home,” said Bickford, adding that every right in the Bill of Rights is subject to reasonable regulation.

Bickford said he thinks that the issue of second amendment sanctuaries will be ripe for litigation; he said in some states, there have already been lawsuits filed and Freedom of Information Act requests for underlying documents between officials who have proposed and implemented sanctuary city laws and ordinances.

“We’ll see what comes of those, if it comes down to the point that local officials are flat out refusing to enforce state laws based on their own conception of what the law is, there would certainly be disciplinary action, funding stripped away, perhaps even criminal or civil litigation to that end,” said Bickford. 

Local and county officials can pass whatever they want; it’s of no legal effect, because as I said earlier the state law governs and that’s how our rule of law has functioned since the beginning. Even if they pass and declare it has effect … there are consequences if they don’t abide by it,” said Bickford. 

Paris Police Detective Michael Dailey said any initiative wouldn’t have any effect on the department’s enforcement.

“It is the duty of our officers to abide by the US and state constitutions.  Federal law always trumps state law so obviously any laws passed that may ultimately infringe upon the rights granted by the Constitution would have to be scrutinized closely and we would have to evaluate our procedures and duties after those changes are made.  We would definitely have to work closely with District Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General to get clear direction,” said Dailey in an email.

There’s no proposed language for Creaser’s proposal, and the item will appear on the budget of the next Board of Selectmen’s meeting.

 

filed under: