A vast majority of Kentucky’s 120 counties are now considered Second Amendment sanctuaries. Leaders in those counties have re-affirmed their oath to uphold the Constitution when it comes to the right to bear arms, but what’s known as the "2A Movement" has hit the brakes in Daviess County.
Jason Potts is a certified public accountant, and it’s tax season. You could say he’s blowing off a little steam at Rock Hill Range in Daviess County. He brought with him his AR-15, and two semi-automatic handguns for target practice. He says shooting is in his blood.
"I’m 45, and my entire life I’ve been a gun owner," said Potts. "My dad was in the Army, I grew up around it, and I grew up hunting with him.”
Potts leads the Daviess County chapter of Kentucky United, one of the groups pressing counties to become Second Amendment sanctuaries. A movement that began three months ago has persuaded 112 county governments to make a pre-emptive strike against gun control legislation in Frankfort. The counties have approved resolutions protecting the right to bear arms, and pledging not to uphold legislation that infringes on those rights.
Of particular concern to many gun supporters is what’s known as “Red Flag” legislation that would allow police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves. Supporters say it’s a common-sense step aimed at preventing murder and suicide.
Other bills filed this session would ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, as well as repeal a state law that allows Kentuckians to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
Despite having a Democratic governor, gun control legislation doesn’t appear likely to pass this legislative session in Kentucky since Republicans hold majorities in the House and Senate. But there’s always next year, said Potts.
"When you look at the gun laws that have passed at the national level, other countries, other states, the opponents of gun rights, they do take an incremental approach. It’s a little bit this year, a little bit next year. We know those bills, whatever doesn’t pass, will be back.”
Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly is a Republican and life-long member of the NRA, but a second amendment resolution in his county seems unlikely to pass. He says he isn’t going to bring a resolution up for a vote that states the obvious.
"Five times, I’ve taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Commonwealth of Kentucky," Mattingly said. "I take a little umbrage at someone saying that’s not good enough. We want you to do it one more time.”
Mattingly is an avid hunter and recently reopened the Daviess County Gun Club. He supports everyone’s right to own firearms, but Mattingly doesn’t believe the county can legally pass a Second Amendment resolution. That’s because Kentucky has a statute, KRS 65.870, that says local governments may not pass any laws or policies regarding Second Amendment rights.
Daviess County Attorney Claud Porter is in agreement with Judge Mattingly.
"In the statute, a resolution isn’t specifically mentioned, but executive action, any other legislative action is mentioned, so that was the position we took," explained Porter.
Jason Potts, with Kentucky United, doesn’t think Daviess County would be violating state law by passing a Second Amendment resolution. Before Marshall County passed its resolution in February, local leaders requested an opinion from the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office. The AG ruled those counties’ resolutions were legal. After that, Kentucky United members revised the Daviess County resolution to be almost identical to the one in Marshall County, and re-submitted it to the judge-executive and county attorney.
Resolutions declaring counties Second Amendment sanctuaries, or in the case of Daviess County, a Second Amendment safe harbour, hold no legal weight, but to supporters like Potts, they still send a powerful signal.
"When you look at things that have happened in the past that were nothing but symbolic gestures, you find things like Rosa Parks refusing to go to the back of the bus. It was not legal for her to do that, but she was sending a message that I’m not complying with this law that’s unfair, unjust. The Declaration of Independence was by no means legal, but a symbolic gesture. We’re hoping to send that kind of message.”
Despite Kentucky United’s efforts, there are currently no plans for a vote on the Second Amendment Sanctuary ordinance in Daviess County.