HAGERMAN — Another municipality in Gooding County has declared itself a “Second Amendment sanctuary city.”
The Hagerman City Council unanimously approved a resolution making this declaration during its Feb. 3 meeting. This comes a few weeks after the Gooding City Council passed a similar one.
Both resolutions include paragraphs stating the respective city councils “will not appropriate any funds for the enforcement of unconstitutional laws or executive actions.”
But it’s unclear to what extent these resolutions are enforceable. Other city councils in the Magic Valley have decided it’s not within their purview to consider whether a law is constitutional.
Wendell City Council member Rebecca Vipperman said the city attorney advised that council not to adopt one of these resolutions after a resident asked for the item to be added to the Feb. 18 meeting agenda.
Vipperman said the city attorney told the council these resolutions mostly political statements without much teeth. Therefore, the council decided not to take action on the item.
A resident also brought up the issue during the Jan. 19 Twin Falls City Council meeting without much success. The majority of council members said it wasn’t their place to weigh in on constitutional amendments.
In a statement to the Times-News after the meeting, council member Greg Lanting said he wouldn’t vote in favor of a resolution that designates Twin Falls as a sanctuary city for any reason.
“The gentleman (on Jan. 19) had a fairly benign resolution,” Lanting said. “But it still has us as a city or council decided whether something is unconstitutional. That is the job of the courts.”
Hagerman City Attorney Philip Brown said the council didn’t discuss the resolution with him at length before approving it. He said if a state or federal law is passed in the future that the council believes infringes on residents’ Second Amendment rights, he would advise the council take the matter to court to try to have a judge declare it unconstitutional.
Gooding County Prosecuting Attorney Trevor Misseldine declined to weigh in on the resolutions. He said couldn’t comment as neither Hagerman nor Gooding requested he review the documents.
Instead, Misseldine cited a section of Idaho code that stems from Senate Bill 1332, which former Gov. Butch Otter signed into law in 2014.
The code doesn’t use the term “sanctuary,” but like the cities’ resolutions, it similarly prevents Idaho officials and employees from enforcing laws that are contrary to the right to keep and bear arms as outlined in the state constitution.
“The people have the right to keep and bear arms, which right shall not be abridged,” the constitution states.
Despite these protections, Hagerman Mayor Alan Jay said the council wanted to pass this sanctuary city resolution to show its support for the Second Amendment in the face of potential federal gun law changes.
“With everything that’s going on in our country and the threat of the federal government coming down on our right to bear arms, we were able to get this passed to protect the rights of the local community,” Jay said.
On Feb. 14 — the three-year anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida during which 17 people died — President Joe Biden issued a statement calling on Congress to approve “commonsense gun law reforms.” The president called for background checks on all gun sales and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Hagerman and Gooding’s resolutions state the cities are opposed to these types of laws.
The two Magic Valley cities have joined a growing list of Idaho municipalities that have passed resolutions reaffirming their support for the Second Amendment.
In July of 2020, the city of Star in Ada County became the first to pass this type of resolution. Since then, Nampa, Eagle, Kuna and Saint Anthony have passed similar declarations.
Outside of Idaho, hundreds of other local governments throughout the country have declared themselves sanctuary cities and counties for the Second Amendment.
After numerous cities and counties in Virginia passed these resolutions, the state’s Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, issued an opinion in December 2019 stating the documents have no legal effect.
“It also bears emphasis that neither local governments nor local constitutional officers have the authority to declare state statutes unconstitutional or decline to follow them on that basis,” Herring said in his opinion.
When contacted in January, Scott Graf, a spokesperson for the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, said the office had not yet received a request from a member of the Idaho Legislature for an advisory opinion on the matter.