TIPTON, Iowa, (Aug. 10, 2021) – Last month, Cedar County, Iowa passed a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County”  resolution. But in practice, the vote created a sanctuary for nothing.

Cedar County Supervisors unanimously passed the resolution, declaring, “The Cedar County Board of Supervisors hereby declares Cedar County to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary County, and hereby states its opposition to the enactment of any legislation, executive order and administrative rules that would infringe upon the constitutional right of the people of Cedar County to keep and bear arms.”

Cedar County joins three other Iowa counties that passed similar ordinances in July. (Jasper, Hardin and Madison).

Supporters of the Second Amendment Sanctuary Movement and the media constantly overstate the practical effect of these resolutions. An Iowa TV station went as far as to claim, “This resolution prevents law enforcement from enforcing state or federal gun laws that appear to violate the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”

It does no such thing.

It’s clear from the language that the resolution doesn’t actually do anything. It doesn’t create any kind of sanctuary. It merely serves as a declaration that the county supervisors oppose infringements upon the right to keep and bear arms. Furthermore, resolutions aren’t legally binding. They are nothing more than statements of opinion. There is nothing wrong with making such a declaration, but it doesn’t create a “sanctuary.” A statement in the Muscatine Journal tells you everything you need to know about this resolution.

“The county’s sanctuary status will not change day-to-day operations.”

Resolutions have their place strategically. They can serve as a first step and create a foundation for future action, including the introduction of a legally binding ordinance banning local enforcement of certain federal actions. But resolutions should never be sold as “sanctuaries.” They create a sanctuary for nothing.


To create a true sanctuary a state or local jurisdiction must legally prohibit state and local police from enforcing or participating in specific federal actions.

The term “sanctuary” was borrowed from states and localities that have implemented policies that prohibit cooperation with some federal immigration enforcement. A number of jurisdictions have passed “sanctuary” laws to great effect. They work because they prohibit state and local officials from taking specific, well-defined actions. For instance, some states have prohibited local agencies from entering into contracts with the federal government to use jails for the purpose of detaining undocumented immigrants. Other jurisdictions have banned collecting immigration information, making it impossible to pass it along to federal authorities.

Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” sanctuary policies are an extremely effective method to hinder the enforcement of federal immigration law because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from the states. This is true of virtually every federal law, including gun control. Simply put, partnerships don’t work too well when half the team quits. Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed. In a televised discussion on gun control, he noted that a single state taking this step would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.

This strategy is fully supported by a Supreme Court legal doctrine. Any state can legally bar its agents from enforcing immigration laws, federal gun control, or anything they please. Refusal to cooperate with federal enforcement rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program.

Significantly, no determination of constitutionality is necessary to invoke the anti-commandeering doctrine. State and local governments can refuse to enforce federal laws or implement federal programs whether they are constitutional or not.


Mike Maharrey

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