A local group formed to advocate for constitutional rights is requesting Daviess Fiscal Court declare the county a Second Amendment “safe harbor.”
If approved, the resolution would be a statement by Fiscal Court that county government acknowledges the right “to keep and bear arms” for protection and defense of “one’s community and county,” which can be found in both the U.S. Constitution and state Constitution.
The draft resolution would be nonbinding, meaning county officials and law enforcement agencies would not be directly charged with enforcing it. The draft resolution was submitted to Fiscal Court by Kentucky United/Daviess County chapter.
A similar resolution was sought by Kentucky United in 2020, but Fiscal Court declined to take action at the advice of then-county attorney Claud Porter.
Jason Potts, spokesman for the group, said similar resolutions have been passed by 113 counties across the state. The resolution is to let state and federal lawmakers know the county supports Second Amendment rights and would oppose laws that attempted to abridge it, Potts said.
The fact that so many counties have passed similar resolutions “should be on legislators’ minds” when they discuss laws regulating firearms, Potts said.
Knowing so many counties have passed safe harbor resolutions “would provide a deterrent” to legislators passing gun laws that potentially violate the state and federal constitutions, Potts said.
In the region, Hancock, McLean, Ohio, Henderson and Muhlenberg counties have all passed similar resolutions.
The draft resolution says in part: “Any Federal or State statute, executive order, rule or regulation regarding the right to keep and bear arms that violates the Second, Ninth, Tenth, or Fourteenth amendments to the Constitution of the United States, (or) Section 1(7) of the Kentucky Constitution, ... shall be regarded by the People of Daviess County to be unconstitutional, a transgression of the supreme law of our nation and State.”
Retired Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain, who submitted an “In My View” column to the Messenger-Inquirer in support of the resolution, said he opposed an ordinance in 2020. An ordinance, which is legally binding, “would call on law enforcement to take a position that we would enforce, or would not enforce, certain laws.”
“A resolution doesn’t call for law enforcement to take that position,” Cain said Wednesday.
In his “In My View,” Cain said a resolution would result in “leaving no doubt that we value the right to keep and bear arms and will oppose any attempt to lessen that right.”
During the 2020 debate, Porter told commissioners a safe harbor resolution would run afoul of state law, which prohibits local governments from taking action in “any part of the field of regulation of the manufacture, sale, purchase, taxation, transfer, ownership, possession, carrying, storage or transportation” of firearms, ammunition or firearm components.
Shortly after Fiscal Court decided not to move forward, state Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office issued an opinion, saying similar resolutions approved in McLean and Marshall counties did not violate state law because they did not attempt to regulate the manufacture, sale or ownership of firearms and ammunition.
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Those resolutions “set out the firmly held beliefs” of the citizens of Marshall County and McLean County through their duly-elected fiscal courts, including the intent of the counties to oppose any attempt by government “to infringe on the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.”
The new Fiscal Court was sworn in and held its first meeting last week. Judge-Executive Charlie Castlen said he had been sent the draft resolution from the local Kentucky United chapter.
“Certainly, my understanding is you can use an (attorney general’s) opinion as a basis for your actions,” he said. “But, if you are sued in court, a judge’s ruling in court will always trump an A.G.’s opinion.”
Castlen said representatives from the group are expected to be at the next Fiscal Court meeting January 19. Castlen said he would research the issue to determine the legality of passing a resolution and would examine the language of the resolution Kentucky United is proposing.
“Between John Burlew the county attorney, the staff and myself, I plan to be prepared by the time they come to us on the 19th,” Castlen said.
In discussions with Kentucky United members during the campaign, “I told them I don’t have a problem supporting it” and would consider it “after I’ve done my research.”
Commissioner Larry Conder said of a resolution, “this is safe harbor for the Second Amendment, and I would support that.”
“What I would humbly request,” he said, “is the language (of the proposed resolution) has to go through legal, to make sure we aren’t overstepping any bounds.”
Commissioner Janie Marksberry said “it’s an item we will need to consult with our county attorney.” Markberry said it would be up to the judge-executive to put the proposed resolution on a future Fiscal Court agenda.
“I know the vast majority of Kentucky counties have passed it,” she said. “I am pro-Second Amendment. My personal opinion as a commission is I think it would be a good idea.”
Commissioner Chris Castlen said: “For now, I want to let our current county attorney look at it first and give us his legal advice.”
Burlew could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. Castlen said he would keep an open mind on the issue.
“I do appreciate them trying to work with us to try to pass something they are passionate about,” Castlen said.
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