Misleading our towns into liabilities

16 Jan 2020 | 12:57

    Last month it was reported that Assemblyman Parker Space had crafted a County Resolution for the Boards of Chosen Freeholders in Sussex and Warren counties to consider using to declare our region "2nd Amendment Sanctuaries." The Township of West Milford had already adopted a similar resolution, as have localities in a dozen other states; some other towns in our area are reported to have adopted resolutions or to be considering them. Nothing legal can come of such meaningless actions, unless it's to open law enforcement and the bodies that oversee them to liability for damages done when they fail to enforce the law.

    Using Public Records Requests, The Brady Campaign has verified that the original "sanctuary" actions, taken in New Mexico, were not grassroots actions, but rather promoted by the National Rifle Association. Wiser law-enforcement officials, such as in Virginia, have confirmed that such resolutions can have no force of law because they promise not to enforce duly enacted measures to prevent gun violence. Local action never supersedes state or federal law.

    Space's draft resolution cannily states only that the adopting jurisdiction "opposes" "gun control, 'gun safety legislation,' and 'red flag laws.'" Apparently he does know that it would be unconstitutional for a municipality or county to declare that its police would not enforce such laws. New Jersey Attorney General Grewal took 21 pages last August to provide procedures for removing guns under an ERPO (Extreme Risk Protective Order) or TERPO (Temporary Extreme Risk Protective Order), interpreting the newly passed law known as a "red-flag law." The directive provides for balancing the concerns of family members or neighbors that a gun owner may do themself or someone else harm against the gun owner's second-amendment rights that so concern proponents of "sanctuary" measures. They involve judges and evidence, due process as it's known throughout the history of U.S. jurisprudence.

    Think of the potential consequences of a jurisdiction failing to enforce such a duly obtained order: A gun owner is depressed. Their loved one fears they will become one of the 65 percent of gun deaths that are suicides, so applies for and obtains a TERPO. The police ignore it. The gun owner shoots themself, but only succeeds in damaging their brain so they need skilled nursing care for several more miserable decades. The loved one might sue the jurisdiction as well as the police to provide for that care plus loss of earnings. Only the NRA is happy.

    Every gun-violence tragedy is followed by talk of the shooter's mental health. Red-flag laws allow us all to act to prevent such horrors. They are actions of mutual concern, our legal system at its best, and Assemblyman Space should know better than to discourage their enforcement.

    Barbara Kellam-Scott