Bud Kennedy

In Texas, calls for a sanctuary county: ‘What are you going to do to protect my gun?’

Sheriffs are on the Texas ballot in 2020, and it looks like one local sheriff does not want to be politically outgunned.

Facing a challenger who opposes requiring even basic gun licensing or training, 10-year Sheriff Roger Deeds is calling for making Hood County a “sanctuary county” that would not enforce any sort of new federal gun law.

I know. Granbury and Hood County, home of flag-waving patriotism, don’t seem like the kind of place that would give the Trump administration or the U.S. government a defiant finger wave on any issue.

Bur four years ago, Hood County’s clerk up and refused to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The county lost the ensuing lawsuit and $43,000 in damages.

This time, Deeds says he’s responding to the people.

Not the people worried about stopping another mass shooter like in El Paso or Odessa-Midland.

The people worried about their guns.

“I have people ask me all time,” he told a campaign forum last week, “‘What are you going to do to protect my gun?’“

Not about protecting lives, or children’s lives.

No, Deeds said residents ask, “Are you going to work with the feds to take my AR-15?”

He went on: “We’re not going to do that.”

Taking away responsible owners’ legal weapons is not part of any current public policy debate, beyond one Democratic presidential candidate’s last-ditch play for attention.

But Republicans are currently debating other calmer, more reasonable changes: whether to take guns from anyone posing an imminent threat, and also whether to broaden background checks and maybe even require them for sales outside the owner’s family.

Yet Deeds said action is needed: “We’re going to try to pass a sanctuary county resolution.”

The crowd cheered.

There is no legal definition of a “sanctuary.” Generally, referring to immigration, it means a county or city won’t spend local money or resources doing what is constitutionally the federal government’s work.

Two giant, sprawling West Texas counties, Hudspeth and Presidio, have passed the “Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolutions.

Hudspeth County’s resolution says only that commissioners support the sheriff and won’t do anything unconstitutional.

But out way west of Big Bend, where the closest metropolitan area is Chihuahua, Mexico, Presidio County’s resolution chest-thumps about gun rights for two pages.

Then it misfires by declaring any other federal restrictions “unenforceable and valid.”

Basically, these resolutions are harmless political threats. All they say is that commissioners will uphold the Second Amendment.

But that might be enough to protect Deeds, the county’s 10-year sheriff, from an increasingly strident Texas Gun Rights faction of Tea Party Republicans demanding legal carry of guns anywhere, anytime, without licensing or required training.

The party’s own platform says owning a gun “guards against tyranny.”

Officially, the party even opposes any “red flag” mental investigation of a mentally unstable gun owner if there hasn’t been a crime.

David Streiff, of Granbury, a Greyhound security executive, has announced he will challenge Deeds in the March 3 party primary.

Strieff wrote Aug. 2 on Facebook that carrying a gun should not require “the government granting you a permission slip.”

“We recognize the Constitution as our permit to carry. ... Leaving the government out of the permission process makes us a safer society,” he wrote.

That is not what most Texans believe.

In a Texas Politics Project poll last spring, before recent shootings in El Paso and Odessa-Midland, 49% of Texans supported stricter gun laws, and 72% supported taking guns from anyone posing a threat.

In a June poll by Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University, Texans don’t want AR-15s restricted. But even before the latest shootings, a plurality of Texans said it’s too easy to buy a gun here.

I think some of those reasonable Texans vote in Hood County.

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Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 16 Texas Legislature sessions. First on the scene of a 1988 DFW Airport crash, he interviewed passengers running from the burning plane. He made his first appearance in the paper before he was born: He was sold for $600 in the adoption classifieds.
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