Lewis County is inching toward becoming a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” joining a growing number of jurisdictions trying to fend off potential firearm restrictions with non-binding declarations.
And if Lewis County commissioners do go forward with what would be a symbolic resolution, it would fall in line with at least five local cities. Winlock, Morton, Mossyrock, Toledo and Napavine have all passed their own local Second Amendment proclamations.
Those proclamations popped up from 2019 to 2020, all resembling similar sanctuary-type resolutions across the nation. The goal is to subvert what some see as unconstitutional restrictions and lend support to law enforcement agencies or elected officials who might refuse to enforce them.
On June 24, 2019, the City of Morton passed its own resolution, which was presented by Police Chief Roger Morningstar, according to public records. The resolution came after Morningstar publicly announced he wouldn’t “actively seek out” violators of I-1639, the voter-approved initiative that raised the legal purchase age for semi-automatic rifles, along with other restrictions.
According to the document, Morton “will not assist, support or condone any unconstitutional infringement” of the Second Amendment.
“Furthermore, the City of Morton recognizes that the first and last protectors of the United States Constitution are the people of the United States,” it reads.
This week, Morningstar attended a county meeting where commissioners once again discussed the potential for a countywide resolution. Over the Fourth of July weekend, the conservative — and often controversial — police chief shared a meme of a mid-toast Leonardo DiCaprio with the words, “you’re celebrating today because regular citizens had military grade weapons.”
Morton was one of the earliest Lewis County cities to pass a sanctuary resolution. It was followed by Napavine, Mossyrock, Winlock and Toledo in the winter of 2020. The wording of Mossyrock’s Feb. 13 proclamation exactly mirrored Morton’s. Morton police provide law enforcement services for both towns.
On the county level, commissioners have offered varied responses to the idea of a Second Amendment sanctuary proclamation. In 2019, then-commissioners declined some residents’ request for a proclamation, instead waiting for the courts to issue a decision on I-1639. It was upheld as constitutional.
Now, first-term commissioner Sean Swope has re-ignited the push, at the request of Sheriff Rob Snaza.
While Commissioner Lindsey Pollock has thrown support behind a resolution acknowledging the importance of the whole constitution, Swope this week insisted that the first and second amendments need to be the focus.
“I do feel that when you think of the different amendments that are being attacked, the first and second without question are being attacked,” he said.
A petition submitted to the county by Adna resident Karl Von Moos included a couple hundred signatures and “strongly” encouraged commissioners to make Lewis County “a sanctuary county for our unalienable right to keep and bear arms which shall not be infringed.”
The petition read, “we the people of Lewis County declare that we will not support firearm laws which are repugnant to the state and federal constitution.”
Swope pointed to a number of gun control measures being considered by Congress, as well as Twitter’s decision to ban former president Donald Trump after the deadly Jan. 6 capitol insurrection.
“When you can censor arguably the most powerful man in the world, the president of the United States of America, there’s an attack on free speech,” Swope said.
This week, commissioners informally agreed to merge Pollock and Swope’s vision for the proclamation.