Heads up, Tarrant County health officials: There’s a contagion on our borders.
The first local outbreak of hysteria was in Hood County. This week, it spread to Parker County, where commissioners approved a resolution declaring the county a “sanctuary” for Second Amendment rights.
We kid — mostly. We understand the defensiveness that gun-rights advocates feel right now. But the declaration is meaningless. It attempts to elevate the local sheriff to a Supreme Court post. And worst of all, it’s counterproductive to the persuasive arguments that Second Amendment advocates need to make.
After decades of policy victories, gun-rights advocates are feeling beleaguered. Mass shootings have some Republican officeholders talking about the need for policy solutions, perhaps even expanded background checks. Democratic presidential candidates are pitching extensive new federal action, including Texan Beto O’Rourke’s infamous cry: “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15.”
But the way to win the argument is not for local officials to grandstand on an issue over which they have little control.
The resolution that Parker County commissioners unanimously approved Monday declares that county officials support Sheriff Larry Fowler’s decision “to not enforce any unconstitutional firearms restrictions against any citizen.” And it vows that no county resources will be used to enforce a law that “unconstitutionally infringes on the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”
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Parker is at least the sixth Texas county to approve such a resolution.
One of the most effective arguments against new gun legislation is that it would burden gun owners who follow the law, as the vast majority do, without doing much to keep criminals from getting weapons. By declaring a willingness to stand against as-yet-unseen gun laws — and adapting the “sanctuary” language, which is typically associated with areas that decline to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement — commissioners are giving up that high ground.
And we wonder: Who are they worried about? The all-Republican state government in Austin? The Republican-led U.S. Senate? Avowed gun-rights supporter President Donald Trump? Do they know something about next year’s elections that the rest of us haven’t figured out yet?
Besides, in a practical sense, the resolution is meaningless. There’s no indication the county is going to do anything to stand in the way of current gun laws. If new ones are enacted, they’ll have to pass constitutional muster. And the county’s involvement with new federal laws would be minimal.
So many of our public policy arguments these days get bogged down in “slippery slope” fears. Gun-rights advocates fear that today’s expanded background checks will become tomorrow’s ban on semiautomatic handguns.
But they’ve won the policy argument so far by highlighting self-defense rights, the need to target enforcement against gun-carrying criminals and the futility of most gun proposals to tackling complex problems like mass shootings.
If they start grandstanding along the lines of the Parker and Hood county resolutions, they risk giving up the very ground they’ve won.