Board hears both sides of ‘Sanctuary’ debate

Donnie Holden presented a petition to commissioners asking for a resolution to name Macon County a second amendment sanctuary county.

Brittney Lofthouse
Contributing Writer

The number of counties in North Carolina deeming themselves as Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties continues to grow with more than half of the counties in North Carolina passing resolutions on the issue.
The Macon County Commissioner Boardroom was standing-room only Tuesday night and was virtually split down the middle in terms of support and opposition for passing a resolution declaring Macon County a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.
Donnie Holden, a former sheriff’s office employee, has been spearheading the movement in Macon County and first presented commissioners with a resolution during the January board meeting. Commissioners asked Holden to revise the resolution and return in February for further consideration. Holden was joined by dozens of supporters Tuesday night with a revised resolution he had worked with Commissioner Paul Higdon to draft.
Holden told commissioners that a petition encouraging such a resolution had garnered 1,085 signatures, which sits at about 3 percent of the county’s total population. Holden noted that while the resolution is somewhat symbolic, he wanted to see Macon officials support it to reaffirm the oath they took when sworn into office.
The resolution states, “The Macon County Board of Commissioners express its intent for Macon County to stand as a Constitutional Rights Protection County for Second Amendment Rights by opposing any efforts by any entity to restrict these rights. Opposition will include any means available under the U.S. Constitution and the laws of North Carolina including the withholding of funds, direction of county employees, legal action and other means as deemed necessary and legal.”
While more than 50 counties have passed similar resolutions, the more counties that sign on, the less “Second Amendment Sanctuary” wording is used in resolutions and the more “Constitution Rights Protection” verbiage is being used.
Commissioner Higdon as well as Commissioner Gary Shields expressed their concern in using the word “Sanctuary” which has various connotations with which they were not comfortable.
“I don’t like the word Sanctuary because of the connotations associated with it, but if we are talking about holding and protecting the Constitution, I will do that every day of my life,” said Higdon.
A group opposing the resolution attended the meeting dressed in black and wore American flag ribbons on their shirts. Susan Ervin addressed the board on behalf of the group and stated that while those in attendance opposed a Second Amendment resolution, they did not oppose gun ownership, but rather support responsible gun control.
“The proposed ‘sanctuary’ does not make us feel safer,” she said. “There is virtually no chance and very little preference for banning guns in this country and reasonable controls do not mean that onerous restrictions come next.”
Ervin also noted that based on a Federal Court ruling by Supreme Court Judge Anthony Scalia, “The right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”
Sheriff Robert Holland also addressed commissioners and encouraged them to take their time considering any resolution and to make sure that whatever decision they make is in the best interest of all residents, and is a legal decision.
Holland presented commissioners with a resolution from the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association on the issue that affirms support of the Constitution as a whole, something Holland said he swore to uphold the same as the commissioners did when he took his Oath of Office.
“Regardless if you pass a resolution or not, I am going to continue to do what I was elected to do and what I put my hand on the greatest book ever written and swore to do, and that is to uphold the Constitution,” Holland said.
Macon County Commissioners have previously debated the need for a resolution when it is purely symbolic and simply states they will continue to do what they promised to do when taking office, however because the issue is driven by residents of Macon County, they said they will spend the month reviewing the proposed resolutions and vote on the matter in March.
Supporters of the resolution were frustrated with another month delay in a vote, however commissioners explained that they needed time to review the presented document, which all but Higdon had not seen prior to Tuesday night’s meeting.
Commission Chair Jim Tate instructed County Manager Derek Roland to work with Chester Jones on the legality of the resolution and to add it to the March agenda for a vote.