CONROE, Texas (CN) – The leaders of a Texas county glorified the Second Amendment on Tuesday in defiance of mounting nationwide pressure for stricter gun laws, passing a resolution declaring the county a “gun sanctuary.”
Montgomery County, population 590,000, is part of Greater Houston. It borders Harris County, home to Houston, to the north. But the counties’ approaches to the issue are night and day.
The Harris County Commissioners Court, led by County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a 28-year-old Democrat, are trying to clamp down on gun violence. In Texas, counties’ chief executives are called county judges.
They unanimously passed a measure last month mandating people charged with felony domestic violence must surrender their guns to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office until their cases are resolved.
Meanwhile, the all-Republican Montgomery County Commissioners Court unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday at their regular monthly meeting warning that stricter gun control laws will give ruthless criminals, intent on hurting others regardless of whether they have a gun, an advantage over law-abiding citizens.
Though Texas counties can only pass ordinances authorized by state law, the language of the resolution seems to dare any government, state or federal, to try to enforce gun control laws in the county.
Former Montgomery County Judge Jimmie Edwards was called before the Montgomery County Commissioners Court to read excerpts of the resolution. Edwards, a former Marine who has two prosthetic legs, said he came as an “individual concerned about rights across the country.”
Edwards read in part, “Therefore the Montgomery County, Texas government will not authorize or appropriate government resources for the purpose of enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of any element of such acts, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations that infringe on the right by the people to keep and bear arms.”
With its passage of the resolution, Montgomery County became the most populated of 12 Texas counties that have issued pro-gun rights proclamations.
Presidio County, which borders Mexico in West Texas, passed a similar resolution in August that was backed by ranchers who said they depend on guns for protection when law enforcement can take over 30 minutes to respond to calls.
Asked Tuesday if anything about Montgomery County’s resolution conflicts with state law, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office did not respond.
Several people blasted the resolution. Suellen Myers, a 30-year resident of the county, asked the commissioners, “A sanctuary for guns? Guns? When human beings are begging us for sanctuary? We’re going to give it to guns? When American school kids are begging adults in power to give them sanctuary from violence, we’re going to hold up guns?”
She looked at the meeting room’s windows and said, “I wish we could open those blinds and you could look out and you could see it’s not the Wild West anymore.”
Holly Novack of the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action said the resolution, which is supported by Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson, sends the wrong message to law enforcement.
“It is a dangerous threat to the rule of law and public safety to encourage law enforcement to ignore gun safety laws that are contrary to their political views,” she said, adding that an average of 66 people are killed by guns in the county each year.
Reeling from four mass shootings over the past three years in which shooters killed 66 people in Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott issued several executive orders on Sept. 5 focused on law enforcement advising the public to make suspicious activity reports if they fear someone will carry out a mass shooting.
Abbott’s orders make no mention of red-flag laws. Passed by 17 states and the District of Columbia, they authorize police and immediate family members to petition courts for orders allowing removal of guns from people threatening violence.
But Montgomery County resident Mark Anthony Garza said at Tuesday’s meeting he supports the gun sanctuary resolution as a bulwark against such laws.
“I thought we live in a country where the Constitution states you are innocent until proven guilty. And if they deem you guilty then they lock you up and take your guns, not take your guns and then ask questions later,” he told the commissioners.
Montgomery County Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts addressed critics who say the resolution is political posturing with no teeth because it cannot be enforced.
“The highways of history are littered with the remains and memories of people that were disarmed by their rulers or their governments and then destroyed because they had no way to defend themselves,” he said in a thick Texas drawl.
He added, “You can rest assured the Michael Bloombergs of the world and the Beto O’Rourkes and others are not posturing when they tell you they are coming after your firearms.”