Catoosa County resident Ray Blankenship is concerned about state and federal laws regarding universal gun background checks, person-to-person sales and restrictions on high-capacity magazines and assault rifles.

Over the past few months, he's taken to petitioning officials to deem the county a "Second Amendment sanctuary" by limiting the enforcement of state and federal laws concerning gun regulation.

The popularity of "2A sanctuaries" has spiked nationwide over the last few months, with over 300 counties and cities declared safe havens from gun restrictions. In February, Murray County Sole Commissioner Greg Holden declared Murray a sanctuary, and nearby Dade County officials are looking into the process. In January, hundreds of North Georgia residents attended a rally in Floyd County to advocate for its government to sign on.

"Gun sanctuaries" are modeled after "sanctuary cities" that resist or ignore federal immigration policies. According to the National League of Cities, cities are allowed to establish priorities of enforcement by choosing to act only on specific state or federal laws or to not fund their enforcement.

Blankenship is the administrator of a 2A Sanctuary Group in Catoosa County, and in late January, he created a petition that had over 500 resident signatures as of Feb. 11.

Blankenship said he has worked with Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk and county officials on his proposal. Sisk, who has looked over his draft ordinance, submitted suggestions to Blankenship, the sheriff said.

"I support the Constitution and all the rights, not just the Second Amendment," said Sisk. "[This group] is trying to protect the right to keep and bear arms and all the rights afforded by the Constitution."

Blankenship spoke at the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners meeting on Feb. 4 outlining why he believes the county should consider resisting any state or federal regulation of guns.

He pointed to several bills being discussed in the Georgia Legislature, including a Democratic-sponsored ban on semiautomatic firearms. Additional worries include universal gun background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Orders or "red flag laws," which give a judge the ability to order a person found to be a threat to themselves to turn over their guns.

"If you pass this ordinance [for a sanctuary], I will stand with you, I will stand with my sheriff to protect what you have signed," he said.

In a statement sent Feb. 14, Board of Commissioners Chairman Steven Henry said that part of his oath of office was to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which includes the right to bear arms.

"I did not lightly take this oath and I meant when I took the oath that I would do what I said I would do," the statement reads. "I will oppose any effort to restrict the Constitutional right of the citizens of this state and county to lawfully keep and bear arms. I regard this as my duty under the oath of office."

State Rep. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, is the co-author of House Bill 751 against "red flag laws" which is currently being considered in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Sisk said there are no Catoosa-specific gun laws, it's all state and federal code.

In 2019, the county's single homicide involved a firearm. Sisk said gun crimes in the county are relatively low.

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