Sheriff proclaims Wicomico County 2A Sanctuary, community members question timing and intentions
WICOMICO COUNTY, Md. – Tuesday night the Wicomico County Council revisited a hot topic: proclaiming the county as a Second Amendment Sanctuary. Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis says the point of tonight’s proclamation is to ensure that Wicomico County residents know their sheriff supports them in their right to keep and bear arms. “I just want a public statement by the County Council’s men and women that they recognize the importance of our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” said Sheriff Lewis.
A Second Amendment Sanctuary is a state, county, or municipality that adopts laws or resolutions that help block the enforcement of certain gun control measures. Those can sometimes include universal background checks, high-capacity magazine bans, assault weapon bans, and red flag laws. “There appears to be a constant degradation, a constant erosion, of our Constitutional rights in general. There are a number of people out there that believe we don’t need any weapons,” said Sheriff Lewis.
Sheriff Lewis tells 47ABC that he decided to ask the County Council to pull a resolution last year that would have had the same effect. He says that’s because of the eruption of protests against racial injustice following George Floyd’s murder by police officers last summer. “With all the events that unfolded across the country – the civil unrest, the hurt, the pain – that we all felt as a result of the death of George Floyd, I felt the timing was bad. I’m not tone deaf,” said Sheriff Lewis.
But that’s where some in the community take issue. In a phone call, County Council member Bill McCain said the proclamation shouldn’t even be on the agenda. He says it’s only there because the council president put it in. Councilmember McCain says the proclamation holds no legal standing whatsoever, and the council as a whole does not support it. Council President Larry Dodd tells 47ABC, he decided to include the proclamation in Tuesday’s agenda per Sheriff Lewis’ Request.
Sheriff Lewis says by the County Council allowing him to make the proclamation will help to get the message out easier. “When you submit something as a resolution you have to get the majority of the council on board. Well, there are obviously some people who believe in political correctness more than I do, and I don’t think they like the resolution,” said Sheriff Lewis.
Jared Schablein with the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus says he supported the scratched resolution because it had amendments with specific language about minority gun owners and condemned vigilantism. Tuesday’s proclamation does not. “We’re talking about a proclamation that doesn’t change anything. I would agree. I think it’s important that we protect gun ownership. That’s why we put forth an amendment to protect minority gun ownership,” said Schablein.
Schablein says without those amendments, he fears Sheriff Lewis’ new proclamation will serve as a call to action for extremists, and exclude the voices of minority gun owners. “These amendments would have kind of put that fire out. They would have showed our minority communities that we understand you all are gun owners, too,” said Schablein.
Amber Green with Salisbury’s Human Rights Advisory Committee also takes issue with this. She says that specific language is important because it clarifies that the county is ensuring gun rights for everyone. “We can talk about Second Amendment rights. But is it rights shared among all the people? I don’t think that’s the case,” said Green.
Green says she also questions the timing of the proclamation. “This is a hot topic. It was a hot topic in the summer time and it’s a hot topic now. So the question is why are we focusing so much on our Second Amendment rights?” said Green.
But Sheriff Lewis says specific language or not, people should take the proclamation for what he says it is. He adds that he thinks minority gun owners should be happy to see their sheriff make such a proclamation. “They are disproportionately affected by gun violence and criminal violence in their communities. I would certainly think that they would embrace this just as much as any other race or ethnicity,” said Sheriff Lewis.
Sheriff Lewis also says that this isn’t just an important proclamation for lawful gun owners. He says it also ensures the protections of others in dangerous situations. Sheriff Lewis says that’s because in a rural setting like Wicomico County, some folks have to wait as long as 15 minutes before law enforcement arrives to a scene. “We in law enforcement cannot be everywhere. As I speak to different organizations throughout Wicomico County, I’m blown away by individuals’ knowledge, or lack thereof of their right to keep a firearm in their home,” said Sheriff Lewis.