While Another WNC County Becomes 2nd Amendment Sanctuary, Haywood Decides To 'Protect' It All

Feb 5, 2020

Another county in Western North Carolina has joined the ‘Second Amendment sanctuary’ movement.  Henderson County commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution supporting gun rights.  Commissioners in Buncombe County also heard from supporters of a resolution, though no action was taken. 

Another county where this has been brought up is Haywood. 

Two weeks ago, hundreds of people showed up at the Haywood County commissioners meeting to ask that the county be declared a Second Amendment sanctuary. On Monday, commissioners presented a unique resolution of a different sort.

“When I review the resolution I’m reminded of an old Wendy’s commercial, which I paraphrase here,” said Paul Yeager. “Where’s the teeth?”

Yeager was talking about commissioners’ “Constitution-protecting county” resolution, which wasn’t strictly a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution but instead a resolution respecting the entire Constitution and all its amendments.

Although there was explicit language singling out the Second Amendment, commissioners stopped short of proclaiming outright defiance of laws they might feel are unconstitutional.

“What I see when I read the ‘Now therefore’ clauses of the resolution is that you’re dedicated to protecting my rights to the extent that folks in Washington, D.C. and Raleigh will allow you to, “ Yeager said. “Gentlemen, that’s not what we came to ask you for.”

That Monday morning meeting was dramatically different from the crowded Monday evening meeting on Jan. 21 – including Yeager, only five people showed up to comment on the proposed resolution, and no one really supported it. A few proponents of a bona fide Second Amendment sanctuary resolution asked that the document be tabled, and beefed up. Chairman Kevin Ensley wasn’t having it.

“That to me is asking for us to violate the law, violate the Constitution,” said Ensley. “Personally, I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and that’s what I intend to do, and that is to follow the law and I’m not going to pass something that I feel like breaks the law.”

Ensley also brought up the inherent hypocrisy in ignoring the law in support of Second Amendment sanctuaries, and ignoring the law in support of undocumented immigrant sanctuaries.

“Also, we see cities having sanctuary cities where they do not enforce immigration laws and that’s wrong, so we didn’t want to go with the wording of ‘sanctuary,’ and personally I feel like that’s why we stayed away from it,” he said.

Vice Chairman Brandon Rogers stressed the importance of keeping Haywood County on the right side of the law.

“Even though I hear the debate and understand the concerns there that it don’t have enough ‘teeth’ as was mentioned, or enough meat, I even tend to agree somewhat,” Rogers said. “However, I think as you’ll hear here today this board does not want to break any laws, and that is a concern for this board as we work through this resolution.”

First-term commissioner Tommy Long said he’d talked to a number of constituents, including some in the break room at his work. When he asked them what they thought about Haywood County passing a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution, they told him they had little interest in what any government had to say about their right to bear arms.

“I said, “Really? What do you mean?” They said, You ain’t taking our guns up. Just come and try it,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m with you. Somebody tries to come charging up to my house trying to take my guns away, I’ll shoot all my bullets, then I’ll throw all the rocks in my driveway and then I’ll shoot you with a water pistol.’ That’s the way most of us are in this county, right? Most people say, ‘We don’t care what you do up there.’”

aw, violate the Constitution,” said Ensley. “Personally, I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and that’s what I intend to do, and that is to follow the law and I’m not going to pass something that I feel like breaks the law.”

Ensley also brought up the inherent hypocrisy in ignoring the law in support of Second Amendment sanctuaries, and ignoring the law in support of undocumented immigrant sanctuaries.

“Also, we see cities having sanctuary cities where they do not enforce immigration laws and that’s wrong, so we didn’t want to go with the wording of ‘sanctuary,’ and personally I feel like that’s why we stayed away from it,” he said.

Vice Chairman Brandon Rogers stressed the importance of keeping Haywood County on the right side of the law.

“Even though I hear the debate and understand the concerns there that it don’t have enough ‘teeth’ as was mentioned, or enough meat, I even tend to agree somewhat,” Rogers said. “However, I think as you’ll hear here today this board does not want to break any laws, and that is a concern for this board as we work through this resolution.”

First-term commissioner Tommy Long said he’d talked to a number of constituents, including some in the break room at his work. When he asked them what they thought about Haywood County passing a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution, they told him they had little interest in what any government had to say about their right to bear arms.

“I said, “Really? What do you mean?” They said, You ain’t taking our guns up. Just come and try it,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m with you. Somebody tries to come charging up to my house trying to take my guns away, I’ll shoot all my bullets, then I’ll throw all the rocks in my driveway and then I’ll shoot you with a water pistol.’ That’s the way most of us are in this county, right? Most people say, ‘We don’t care what you do up there.’”

Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick, the board’s only Democrat, said he was fine with the proposed resolution, and Commissioner Mark Pless maintained his position that the best way to safeguard Second Amendment rights wasn’t with a toothless resolution, but at the ballot box instead.

Pless said he also got some wise guidance from Burnsville Republican House Representative Michele Presnell, and N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore.

“Both of their advice – go vote for people who believe the way that you do and you’ll have nothing to fear,” said Pless. “If we don’t vote, we have everything to fear.”

The resolution passed unanimously, but it remains to be seen if sanctuary supporters will demand more from commissioners. Until then, both Ensley and Rogers face Republican opponents in the March 3 Primary Election.