The word ‘sanctuary’ poses problems, sheriff says

Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin says a resolution passed by the Montezuma County commissioners stating that the county is “a sanctuary county for the constitutional right to keep and bear arms” won’t alter how he does his job.

“It’s just a political statement,” he told the Four Corners Free Press. “It has no authority over what I do or don’t do.”

However, while he was prepared to sign the first resolution considered by the commissioners – which simply expressed “opposition to infringement upon the constitutional right to keep and bear arms” – he won’t sign one calling the county a gun sanctuary, he said.

“If they are going to put in that it’s a sanctuary county for guns, that means no laws apply and I can’t sign it,” he said.

Nowlin said he is bound by his oath of office to uphold state law as well as the constitution. He says he fully supports Second Amendment rights, but he has concerns about labeling the county a “sanctuary” for those rights. “It puts me in the middle of something I don’t want to be involved in,” he said.

“I understand people’s feelings on both sides of the aisle, I really do,” Nowlin said. “I’m just going to use common sense and the best judgment for everybody. We’re not going to go in and start taking people’s guns. I’m not going to violate somebody’s constitutional and legal rights and property possession.

“I want to support responsible lawful gun ownership. That’s what we want here. I support that 100 percent. We all do.”

A county resolution is merely a statement and doesn’t have the force of law, but Commissioner Larry Don Suckla has called for the commission to pass an actual ordinance – which is a law within the county – declaring the county to be “a sanctuary county for constitutional rights.”

Nowlin said he doesn’t necessarily oppose such a measure, though he isn’t sure what practical impact it would have. “If you want to declare a sanctuary for the constitution, what does it mean? But I’m good with that, I guess,” he said.

From March 2019. Read similar stories about , .