LIMA — The Second Amendment sanctuary movement is gaining popularity in Ohio, taking a page from the sanctuary city immigration movement as gun rights activists encourage counties to resist new gun laws.
The nationwide movement has spread as more states consider adopting red flag laws, making it easier to confiscate firearms from people believed to pose a danger to themselves or others.
While Ohio has not adopted a red flag law, Gov. Mike DeWine’s Strong Ohio proposal pushed a similar policy that would allow police to remove firearms from individuals undergoing court-ordered treatment for mental illness or substance abuse.
What is a 2A sanctuary?
Several Ohio counties have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries in protest of DeWine’s Strong Ohio plan.
Whether those counties intend to resist reforms or simply send the governor a message is unclear. But Joanne Brant, a professor of law at Ohio Northern University’s College of Law, said the legal interpretations the Second Amendment sanctuary movement rely on are not related to the immigration sanctuary movement that preceded it.
“They may both use that term, but they stand on different legal footing,” Brant said. “The Second Amendment sanctuaries are generally resisting state gun laws and claiming a right of local office to say what the federal Constitution means. The other movement is about immigration … and local jurisdictions not wanting to cooperate with ICE in turning over citizens without papers.”
Brant compared Second Amendment sanctuaries to the Constitutional Sheriff movement, in which sheriffs claimed authority to defy laws they perceived as unconstitutional.
“Sheriffs don’t have the last word on what the Constitution means,” Brant said. “No, not all gun laws violate the Second Amendment.”
She pointed to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, the landmark Second Amendment case which upheld the right to possess firearms in the home.
“He said courts have long held the right to keep and carry weapons does not extend to any matter whatsoever for any purpose,” Brant said.
What is the ‘pink slip’ system?
Ohio law already allows the courts to order inpatient or outpatient treatment when a person is believed to pose a danger to themselves or others.
The pink slip process starts with a 72-hour hospitalization, during which the individual undergoes a medical evaluation to determine whether longer-term treatment is necessary. When a doctor wants to hold a person beyond 72 hours, he may file an affidavit with the probate court to extend the involuntary treatment period for up to 90 days.
A court hearing is required within 10 days, during which the accused is entitled to an attorney, can order an independent medical evaluation and call witnesses.
When a person is found to be “mentally ill subject to court order,” or suffering a mental health crisis severe enough to require extended court-ordered treatment, they are prohibited from possessing, purchasing or carrying a firearm until a judge finds the person is no longer a threat to himself or others.
There were 59 such cases heard by Allen County Probate Court in 2019, with another 17 filed to date in 2020.
But Probate Court Judge Glenn Derryberry said most people ordered to undergo treatment are released in less than 90 days. And the process is not required when people voluntarily submits themselves to treatment.
DeWine has proposed expanding the pink slip system to cover individuals suffering from chronic alcoholism or drug dependency.
He’s also called for a new safety protection order process in which law enforcement could remove firearms from a person found by the court to be suffering from a mental health or substance abuse crisis, which is rarely enforced today.
Under the DeWine proposal, which has not been approved yet, those individuals could also sell their firearms to a licensed dealer or ask the court to turn their guns over to a family member, so long as they reside in another household, until a judge rules the person is no longer a threat to themselves or others.
Gun rights activists here have formed their own chapter of Ohio Stands United, the group behind the latest Second Amendment sanctuary push in Ohio. The local chapter recently met with the Allen County commissioners, which declined at the time to declare Allen County a Second Amendment sanctuary.
But the group remains active on Facebook and hosted a meeting at the First Church of the Nazarene earlier this month.
The group opposes all firearms restrictions, according to a recent Facebook post, and has singled out state red flag laws as a concern for targeting individuals who have not committed a crime.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.