Wicomico gun rights resolution put on hold

Sheriff Mike Lewis has withdrawn a controversial resolution to make Wicomico a Second Amendment sanctuary county, following objections from the NAACP and other groups that said it uses language “that is currently anti-democracy and contrary to Rule of Law.”

In a letter sent Monday night to County Council members, Lewis said he has heard from numerous opponents and proponents of the measure

Supporters told Lewis that they worked closely with those opposed to the resolution in an effort to reach some common ground and that they had reached a compromise.

However, after attending a Unity Rally (Monday night) in Salisbury with our Black Ministerial Alliance, I heard from a diverse group regarding the 2A Resolution,” he said. “I have not only listened to their concerns, but I’ve heard their concerns.”

The Sheriff said he was mindful of the unrest throughout the country following the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.

“It’s been a long three weeks for each and every one of us. Like you, my heart aches for a country still grieving over the despicable and deadly actions of a Minneapolis Police Officer,” Lewis said in the letter. “While racial tension remains high, I think it’s important that we recognize our community is hurting, and that we must unite for a common cause. The symbolism of passing any resolution viewed as being further divisive to our community is simply unacceptable at this time.”

A large crowd turned out to Tuesday’s meeting to be heard prior to the scheduled vote, including peaceful protesters in front of the Government Office Building.

Based on previous comments from council members, the resolution appeared on track to pass 4-3, along party lines.

The County Council met with Lewis May 19 to discuss a proposed resolution declaring Wicomico a Second Amendment sanctuary county, or a county that prohibits or impedes the enforcement of gun control measures viewed as a violation of the Second Amendment.

Lewis has maintained that “legislative hurdles” make it difficult for law-abiding individuals to legally purchase and maintain firearms.

Nearly 2,000 community members have signed an online petition calling for the council to declare Wicomico a Second Amendment sanctuary county and oppose gun control legislation.

The proposed resolution outlined county government limitations that protect the Second Amendment and states that “the Wicomico County government will oppose unconstitutional restrictions by the Maryland General Assembly in the right to keep and bear arms through all available legal means.”

County Councilman Bill McCain had stood opposed last month, saying it is not within the county’s authority to determine the constitutionality of laws. 

“There’s a process to challenge the constitutionality of laws. I encourage anybody who has issues with gun laws, they should be at the state house in Annapolis when laws they think are unreasonable are being proposed … If a law is passed you don’t think is constitutional, there is a process. That’s what the courts of the land are for. The courts determine the constitutionality of laws, not the Wicomico County Council,” he said.

County Attorney Paul Wilber worked with Lewis in drafting the resolution.

Several groups had called for a delay on voting on resolution.

The coalition has said the resolution does not take into account racial disparities in how minorities are treated in gun ownership and uses language “that is currently anti-democracy and contrary to Rule of Law.” The group added that Wicomico County gun owners from all backgrounds should be included in the discussion.

Since both sides appear to have reached an agreement on a revised resolution, Lewis said a revised resolution may be resubmitted at a later date.

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