Spokane Valley could become a Second Amendment sanctuary city under councilman’s proposal

Spokane Valley city staff are researching a resident’s suggestion that city officials promise to “refuse to enforce any law that I deem to be unconstitutional, even if it’s upheld by the courts or I’m ordered to do so by my superiors.”

Terry Gaston proposed that wording during last week’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting. He also said city officials should take an oath of office that includes upholding the U.S. Constitution.

“The purpose of an oath is to bind the officer to the Constitution to protect the people from tyranny,” Gaston said, adding that the oath taken by newly appointed Spokane Valley Police Chief Mark Werner doesn’t mention the Constitution.

“All this oath does is bind the officer to the laws of government,” Gaston said.

He proposed that both the U.S. Constitution and the Washington Constitution should be mentioned in a revised oath, with the sentence added about refusing to enforce unconstitutional laws.

Gaston handed copies of his proposed wording to the Spokane Valley city clerk and to council members, then left the meeting.

City staff are looking into the legalities of making changes to the oaths, which are included in Spokane Valley’s municipal code, and will return to the City Council with recommendations.

A city councilman wants Spokane Valley to declare itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary City and symbolically proclaim the city’s support for its citizens’ right to keep and bear arms.

Caleb Collier says his idea is a response to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s recent announcement that he’ll ask state legislators to ban the sale of semi-automatic rifles.

At last week’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting, Collier asked that the Second Amendment Sanctuary proclamation be added to the council’s upcoming agenda.

“My proposal that Spokane Valley considers becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary City is a work in progress,” Collier wrote in an email after the meeting. “The heart of the proposal is to protect the Constitutional rights of the citizens of Spokane Valley.”

He added that his proposal is in the early stages, and the City Council would have to consider the motion, discuss verbiage and then vote on a final proclamation.

As a proclamation, it wouldn’t have the force of law and couldn’t, for example, prevent city officials from enforcing state or federal gun laws.

Earlier this month, Ferguson announced he’ll ask Washington legislators to introduce a bill banning the sale of semi-automatic rifles, often called “assault weapons,” and high-capacity magazines. Ferguson said they’re designed for killing people and have no place in civilian use. Such bills have previously been introduced in Olympia by Democrats but have been unable to pass the state House of Representatives.

Councilman Ed Pace said adding a Second Amendment Sanctuary City proclamation to the council’s agenda allows city staff and the council to research the issue.

“It may be the proclamation is the only thing we do,” Pace said, but even so, that move could be used as a lobbying tool and as a message to state legislators.

A former Spokane Valley councilman said Collier’s proclamation would only draw negative attention to the city.

“I think it’s foolish for the council to work on changing state law,” Bill Gothmann said this week. “Council should stick to taking care of the local issues they were elected to do.”

But Pace said researching the proclamation isn’t distracting the council or staff from local issues.

“Our roads are being fixed, and our finances are great,” Pace said. “We are taking care of things.”

Dave Workman, with the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, Washington, said to his knowledge, no other Washington city has declared itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary City.

“I guess no one has ever seen a need to go through with this before,” Workman said, adding that Washington has a strong constitutional provision for residents’ right to carry weapons and that state law pre-empts local law.

“If a law is passed, a city can’t opt out of it,” he said.

Counties in Oregon and Maryland have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries.

The “Second Amendment Preservation Measure” was approved by more than 60 percent of voters in Coos County, Oregon, in 2015.

Rob Taylor, who worked for passage of the measure, said supporters were motivated by Oregon’s declaration as a sanctuary state for immigration, meaning it has a law preventing state resources from being used toward enforcing federal immigration laws.

“We wanted to copy that ordinance for gun rights,” Taylor said. “If the state can pass a law that says we won’t uphold federal immigration laws, then we should be able to pass a law that says we will not spend state funds on going against the Second Amendment.”

Taylor said his group will soon approach commissioners in six more Oregon counties to try to get the Second Amendment measure on the books.

“If commissioners don’t approve it, we will work to put it on the ballot as a citizens initiative,” Taylor said.

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