Sheriff Kelly Sparks

Davis County Sheriff Kelly Sparks poses outside the sheriff's office in Farmington on Jan. 28, 2019.

FARMINGTON — Six weeks after Davis County officials said they didn’t plan to pursue Second Amendment sanctuary status, a new sheriff’s office policy has gone into effect to ease concerns of some that their gun rights are at risk.

“This is truly preventive,” meant as a counterweight to possible governmental action from the feds on down to interfere with gun rights, said Davis County Sheriff Kelly Sparks. There’s no specific measure or action that prompted the policy change, but the issue has been a simmering point of worry among some, which led to the action.

“This is really to make sure people know where we stand in case of these potentialities. ... I think this is a conversation that’s been going on for a long time,” Sparks said.

The policy change went into effect Tuesday, he said, and states that sheriff’s office deputies and other employees are not to enforce certain measures that infringe on the right to bear arms, as spelled out in the Second Amendment. Davis County Commissioners, meeting Tuesday, approved a motion expressing support for the move.

More specifically, the measure directs sheriff’s office staffers not to enforce orders on Second Amendment matters from the U.S. president or other federal, state or local entities that have not been approved by Congress or the state Legislature. The actions subject to the policy need to appear “to exceed the power of the political entity, violate the Constitution or inappropriately infringe on a law-abiding citizen’s right to keep and bear arms,” it reads.

Jitters among some Utahns that their Second Amendment rights are at risk has prompted an array of action in the state, decried as symbolic by some critics. The Utah Legislature last month approved a measure touting support for gun rights and continued discussion of making Utah a “2nd Amendment Sanctuary State.” Weber County commissioners passed a resolution declaring the county a Second Amendment “sanctuary” in April and Wasatch County leaders took similar action last month.

Sparks said the Davis County move is more “actionable” than declaring sanctuary status. In airing his Second Amendment views last April as debate on the issued seemed to percolate, Sparks questioned whether moves like declaring sanctuary status would have a real impact given guarantees already spelled out in the Constitution.

The wording of the policy change, though, while “unique in and of itself,” borrows from Second Amendment sanctuary measures as well as the measure approved last month by Utah lawmakers, Sparks said. Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings helped craft the policy.

Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson expressed concern that moves to chip away at Second Amendment rights can be a slippery slope. “The Second Amendment, if it starts to be eroded away with what rights we were given, we’ll start the process of eroding the entire Constitution away. I think that we have to make sure that we stand up in all areas of this country for what that Constitution is,” he said.

Stevenson touched on the issue of mass shootings in the country, used by some as evidence that gun rules in the the country need to be tightened. He countered that line of thinking. “Guns do not shoot themselves, and we will never resolve that problem until we resolve the mental health situation that we have in this country,” Stevenson said.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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