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First '2nd Amendment Sanctuary' In NC Talks Resolution's Impact

Lilly Knoepp
Murphy is the county seat of Cherokee County. Pictured is the county courthouse.

  The number of North Carolina counties becoming ‘2nd Amendment Sanctuaries’ continues to grow.  The first county to pass the resolution sits at the very western end of the state. Let’s take a look to see what, if any, impact the resolution has had there. 

In March of 2019, Cherokee County Commissioners passed a resolution to become a second amendment sanctuary. 

 “Yeah we’re one of the first counties East of the Mississippi and the Eastern United States,” says McKinnon. 

That’s C.B. McKinnon. He’s vice chair of the county commissioners. When Blue Ridge Public Radio spoke with McKinnon, he had just returned from the Virgina 2nd Amendment Rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“Those folks are law abiding patriots of the United States - and particularly Virginia. They came to peacefully protest an injustice that they see,” says McKinnon. He explains he left his guns at the hotel so that he could attend the main rally at the legislative building.

He saysthe county’s 2ndAmendment resolution was largely symbolic but its “teeth” are the promise that no county funds will ever be used against 2nd Amendment rights. 

Commissioner Gary Westmoreland is the other vice-chair of the commission. He didn’t vote for the bill but now he wishes he had. 

“It’s not that I’m against a gun resolution but it didn’t say an American citizen of proper standing,” explains Westmoreland. He felt it was important that the bill outline that gun owners can only be citizens without felony charges. 

He agrees the bill is symbolic and explains people are worried their guns will be taken. This is a form of oppression, says Westmoreland, citing WWII. 

One of the more infamous moments in Cherokee County history is the arrest of Eric Rudolph in Murphy in 2003.  The Atlanta Olympic Park bomber led the FBI on a manhunt through the Nantahala National Forest before he was caught.  During that time in the late 1990s, Western North Carolina was known as a haven for extremists - most from other parts of the country. Westmoreland explains that Rudolph wasn’t from here and he didn’t use guns.

“You know we have two different populations,” says Westmoreland. “We have the local population that was born and raised here and the ones who come in here.”

All the people Blue Ridge Public Radio spoke with agree that Rudolph's time in Cherokee County has no bearing on the current 2nd Amendment sanctuary resolution.

 Rick Ramsey is the mayor of Murphy. 

“That’s not a subject here anymore. It hasn’t been since I moved back 5 years ago. It never comes up,” says Ramsey referring to Rudolph. 

Ramsey describes himself as a boy born-and-raised in Murphy who travelled the world for 40 years - he worked for Lockheed Martin for much of that time – before he returned and became mayor.    

Ramsey says he hasn’t heard negative or positive comments about the sanctuary resolution. He cautions anyone trying to put Murphy into a box based on any one opinion from county commissioners. 

“It’s a very diverse group. So you can’t just listen to just one and then cookie cutter us into ‘well that’s how they feel,’” says Ramsey.  “That wouldn’t be right.”

All three men do agree on this - they haven’t seen any impact on the ground in Cherokee County from the resolution.


Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.