Commissioners declare Montgomery County a ‘gun sanctuary’ following mixed public support

Resident Holly Novak spoke against the resolution as veterans listen. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
Resident Holly Novak spoke against the resolution as veterans listen. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)

Resident Holly Novak spoke against the resolution as veterans listen. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)

9:55 p.m. Nov. 20: This story has been updated to include comments from Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley.

Community response to a resolution that would declare Montgomery County a "gun sanctuary" was mixed at the Nov. 19 Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting.

Commissioners ultimately passed the resolution, which recognizes citizens’ right to keep and bear arms and states Montgomery County will not authorize or appropriate government funds or resources “that infringe on the right ... to keep and bear arms,” except in instances such as if a person is convicted of a felony. A copy of the resolution can be viewed here.

With the passage of the resolution, which was offered by Commissioner Charlie Riley, Montgomery County joins the more than 200 ‘gun sanctuary’ counties in the U.S. Montgomery County is now the gun sanctuary county with the largest population in Texas, according to a news release from Riley's office.

Riley clarified in an interview with Community Impact Newspaper that the resolution will not change any existing laws or law enforcement procedures in Montgomery County but rather reinforces the county's existing stance on gun control.

"This resolution ... tells the people of Montgomery County that we've got your back," he said. "We are supporting the law abiding citizens for legal gun ownership, and we are not going to enforce any kind of orders or directives ... from the state or federal government [such as if they say] on such and such date, you need to go out and start counting guns."

Eight residents spoke up and addressed the commissioners at the Nov. 19 meeting, with some in favor of the resolution and others urging commissioners to vote against it. Those supportive of the declaration said the resolution reinforces their constitutional rights, while those against the resolution pleaded commissioners to adopt more “common sense” gun laws.

Resident Amy Hamrick questioned the logic and fairness of the resolution, which states disarming law-abiding individuals will not improve public safety. She reminded commissioners that at every Commissioners Court meeting, attendees must pass through security and have their bags checked, and she has seen security remove firearms from citizens.

“Why are you allowed a higher level of security than all of us?” she asked commissioners. “If you are going to enjoy a level of protection here inside this room, then I just ask that you don’t take this protection away from the rest of us.”

Resident Holly Novak, who is part of Moms Demand Action, an organization pushing for stronger gun laws, spoke out against the resolution. Novak said although she understands the need for people to own firearms for personal protection and recreation, the county must recognize the nation’s “gun violence epidemic.”

“It is a dangerous threat to the rule of law and public safety to encourage law enforcement to ignore gun safety laws that are contrary to their political views,” she said. “Ceremonial or not, this resolution sends a dangerous message to law enforcement and the communities they have sworn to protect.”

Others voiced support of the county’s stance on gun control, mostly pointing to law-abiding citizens constitutional right to own firearms.

Resident Mark Anthony Garza, who uses a wheelchair, said firearms allow him to protect himself and his family.

"A gun puts a 120-pound woman against a 250-pound man,” Garza said. “I look at a gun as an equalizer because I can’t fight, and I can’t run, and I have two beautiful women in my own that I have to honor and protect.”

Commissioners ultimately unanimously approved the resolution.

“We have a God-given right and a constitutional right and a state right to defend our properties and our lives,” Commissioner James Metts said. “Let freedom ring.”
By Eva Vigh
Eva Vigh joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 as a reporter for Spring and Klein. Prior to this position, she covered upstream oil and gas news for a drilling contractors' association.