Few sayings drive me more to distraction these days than “out of an abundance of caution.”

What does it actually mean? That good old-fashioned caution no longer cuts it? That we’re only being truly cautious if we go overboard? That we can’t be too careful in these perilous times?

I have no idea. But now, as I peruse the news from all over Maine, I find myself snagged on an equally perplexing idiom. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the “Second Amendment sanctuary.”

In case you missed it, Maine has two. The town of Paris declared itself a “Second Amendment sanctuary” in 2019, while way up in northern Maine the town of Fort Fairfield followed suit on Jan. 20.

Since then, gun rights enthusiasts have proposed similar declarations in Bridgton, Shapleigh and Caribou, to name a few.

More on those in a minute. First, a little history.


Use of the term “sanctuary” to describe communities hellbent on keeping their guns springs from the “sanctuary cities” that for the past 30 years have refused to help the federal government locate and deport asylum seekers here in search of a better life.

That designation, adopted by nearly 200 states, counties and municipalities according to the Center for Immigration Studies, comes in direct response to what many see as unconstitutional tactics used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in rounding up undocumented immigrants.

Not so much with the Second Amendment sanctuaries, whose recent spike in popularity comes in direct response to … what’s the phrase … pure paranoia.

“We are afraid they will take away our guns,” Bob Kilcollins, the town councilor who drafted Fort Fairfield’s declaration, told the Bangor Daily News last month. No mention of exactly who “they” are.

Kilcollins also predicted that local police would now stand in solidarity against federal and state gun laws because “law enforcement takes an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.”

Not so fast, responded Town Manager Andrea Powers. The Second Amendment sanctuary designation means only that the Fort Fairfield Town Council believes in both the federal and state constitutions, she told the BDN, and “any citizens found to be in default or breaking these laws will be summonsed as such.”


So much for the wild, wild north.

“This is all performative,” Geoff Bickford, executive director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, said in an interview on Friday. A Second Amendment sanctuary proclamation, he added, “is worth, at best, the paper it’s printed on.”

Practically speaking, Bickford said, the decrees are nothing more than an opinion expressed by a municipality’s governing body. Local governments “don’t get to pick and choose which laws to enforce. It’s not how our system works,” he noted.

Fortunately for Maine, that realization appears to be spreading.

In Caribou, without a word of discussion, the town council on Monday punted its Second Amendment sanctuary proposal to a future meeting.

On Tuesday in Bridgton, with only four of five selectmen present, a similar resolution died in a 2-2 vote after a raft of letters – from both sides – were read into the record.


“This is not in our purview. This is not what the board of selectmen should be doing,” board member Carmen Lone insisted before voting against the measure. The local letters, she said, “should be sent to the people who make the decisions” on firearms regulation.

Down in York County, the Shapleigh declaration didn’t even make it to a vote during a heavily attended, in-person selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday.

Board Chairwoman Jennifer Roux said that while she supports the Second Amendment, the hastily prepared resolution fell way outside the board’s lane. With that, the board moved on to other business.

“Even though I’ve been raised by veterans and we have a farm and I’ve probably got more guns than everybody (at the meeting) combined, I don’t think that politics has any place in local government,” Roux later said in an interview. “So I wasn’t going to entertain signing it and neither one of (her two fellow selectmen) made a motion. We’re done.”

But others aren’t. The city of Ellsworth will take up its Second Amendment sanctuary proposal on Monday. And out there on the internet, templates of this or that declaration are flying among those who feel the time has come to draw the line between the Second Amendment and … what?

Some say it’s the election of Democratic President Joe Biden. According to the FBI, criminal background checks for gun purchases in Maine soared to 22,678 during the months of January and February, a 47 percent increase over the same period last year.


Others say it’s federal legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week that would require background checks for all gun buyers and provide more time for the FBI to vet would-be buyers flagged by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The bills now go on to the Senate, where their chances of passage are next to nil.

Still other sanctuary proponents place any and all gun restrictions atop the slippery slope to government confiscation of all firearms. Try telling that to the domestic violence victim who wants only for police to take her abuser’s shotgun away.

Steve and Sandra Collins of Bridgton wrote last week in opposition to their town becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary. They noted that “firearms violence has reached the point that the CDC is considering declaring it a public health epidemic. The last thing we as a community need to do is to advertise ‘bring your weapons to Bridgton.’”

On Friday, I called Steve Collins to ask what he thinks is propelling the Second Amendment sanctuary movement in his town.

“Frankly, I don’t have a reading on that,” he replied. “I don’t understand the motivation.”

The same goes for the Maine Gun Safety Coalition’s Bickford – particularly when it comes to our neck of the woods.

“I’m not really sure what they are declaring themselves to be in opposition to,” Bickford said. “Because it’s pretty well known that Maine has among the least amount of firearms restrictions in the country, certainly in the Northeast.”

If only someone could explain to the sanctuary crowd that no, nobody wants your guns if you’re a law-abiding citizen. And yes, we need to do something about those who, based on their past behavior, should no longer be trusted with a loaded firearm.

It’s called an abundance of common sense.

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