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CORRECTION: This article was updated Mar. 2 to correctly identify that Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitefield issued a proclamation not a resolution on Feb. 27.

Earlier this week, five Georgia counties declared themselves "Second Amendment sanctuaries," joining a national movement to protect gun rights on a local level.

And North Georgia residents are continuing the momentum by teaming up to gather gun owners across the state.

On Saturday, the RALLY Up! Georgia group will host a pro-Second Amendment gathering in LaFayette to promote "Second Amendment sanctuaries," which have spiked nationally over the last few months with hundreds of counties and cities passing resolutions stating they will not use resources to enforce proposed new state and national anti-gun laws.

According to the National League of Cities, cities are allowed to establish priorities of law enforcement by choosing to act only on specific state or federal laws or to not fund their enforcement.

Catoosa County officials are considering the designation but have not signed or voted on any official documents. However, Board of Commissioners Chairman Steven Henry said after the commission's discussion on the matter Feb. 4 that part of his oath of office is 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," he wrote in a follow-up email on Feb. 14. "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."

The rally comes on the heels of Walker County's own discussion on the issue. On Feb. 27, Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield issued a proclamation signaling his support of gun rights by proclaiming to "uphold, and protect the rights of all citizens to keep and bear arms..." in Walker County. The proclamation designates the first week of March as Second Amendment Awareness and Celebration Week.

Nearby Murray County Sole Commissioner Greg Holden passed a gun sanctuary resolution in his county earlier this month.

Nearby Fannin, Gordon, Heard, Paulding and Upson counties also signed "sanctuary" resolutions on Feb. 25.

In many cases, local county governments were approached by residents to pass resolutions to make the sites "safe havens" for gun owners, said RALLY Up! organizer Bill Buoni.

According to a 2017 Pew Research Center study, about three in 10 people nationwide own a gun. That's on par with the state of Georgia, where about 31% of residents own a gun.

Last month, Buoni, who lives in Walker County, began organizing the rally as a meet-and-greet for Marjorie Greene, a Republican running for the state House in Georgia's 14th Congressional District, which includes Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties. But as Buoni witnessed the momentum for "gun sanctuaries," including a Floyd County rally that brought in an estimated 800 attendees, he decided to expand his focus.

Buoni started the RALLY Up! Georgia Facebook page about two weeks ago, and gained more than 1,500 supporters in about 10 days. He said the initiative began primarily with Northwest Georgia residents in Catoosa, Chattooga, Whitfield and Walker counties, but has expanded to include Murray, Gordon and Floyd counties.

"I hope this is just the beginning," he said.

The rally will include a keynote address from Greene, plus state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, and state Rep. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, who is the co-author of House Bill 751 against "red flag laws." Now being considered in the Georgia House of Representatives, the bill would prevent judges from taking guns away from those deemed a hazard to themselves or others.

Email Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com

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