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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

A Look Inside Utah’s Second Amendment Sanctuary Movement

A photo of a pair of hands holding a gun and many other guns out of focus in the background.
County commissions and councils across Utah are declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries.

Second Amendment sanctuaries are popping up across the country. In Utah, there’s been a push at the county level for over a year that could make its way up to state lawmakers.

At least 11 Utah counties have declared themselves a sanctuary for the Second Amendment, which means they won’t enforce gun restrictions.

Sam Robinson, the owner of Utah Gun Exchange, said his group has been leading the charge for the movement in the state. He said the goal is to have all 29 counties become a sanctuary, and eventually the state.

“With all the societal unrest that we've seen in the last 16 months, there are more people now than ever before that understand that you do need to be able to protect yourself and those that you love and care about,” Robinson said.

Robinson said the movement picked up in Utah — and really across the country — in early 2020 when Virginia lawmakers faced resistance to proposed gun regulations. There were several Utah counties who passed resolutions and ordinances before the COVID-19 pandemic, and in recent months it’s been gaining steam again. Robinson said people in his network are currently asking legislators to make Utah a Second Amendment sanctuary.

Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature passed a bill that eliminated the conceal carry permit requirement. The law went into effect earlier this month.

Counties throughout Utah have passed resolutions and ordinances related to the Second Amendment. Some counties have voiced support, others have declared themselves sanctuaries.

Wasatch County passed an ordinance to become a sanctuary Wednesday night in a 5-2 vote becoming the latest to do so. The council had been ironing out the ordinance with law enforcement and community members for several months.

County Sheriff Jared Rigby said this was an opportunity to let residents’ voices be heard.

“It's more than just words on a page about guns or ammunition,” he said at the council meeting Wednesday. “It's more than just about who is in office and who isn't or who isn't going to be. It's about people, how they're feeling, what they need, their safety.”

Vince Brown is the director of the Institute of Politics and Public Affairs at Dixie State University. He said resolutions like these have “very little legal force” and are more symbolic. However, he said they could potentially undermine the proper way of challenging laws, which is through the courts.

“I do think there's a danger when municipalities and when local governments seem to want to defy the current structure, which places the states above them, and then the federal government above that,” he said.

Brown said Second Amendment sanctuaries — as well as immigration sanctuaries and other similar movements — have gained traction because of polarization in the country.

“It comes from this fundamental level of distrust and institutions and comes from this level of fear about the other side,” he said. “It comes from the fact that people aren't talking to each other or listening to each other or cooperating or compromising with one another to pass legislation.”

Utah Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, said making the state a Second Amendment sanctuary could be considered during next week’s special session, which starts May 19.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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