Wicomico Sheriff Looks Past Critics With Sanctuary County Proclamation

SALISBURY – Sheriff Mike Lewis issued a proclamation this week declaring Wicomico a Second Amendment sanctuary county.

In a meeting of the Wicomico County Council on Tuesday, Sheriff Mike Lewis presented a proclamation declaring Wicomico County as a Second Amendment sanctuary.

“This is not a resolution,” he said. “This proclamation is formally issued by me. A resolution can only be passed by council majority vote. Why a proclamation? Quite simply, I was uncertain as to whether I had sufficient council support to successfully pass a resolution here tonight. But by proclamation, I promise you, as a citizen of Wicomico County I will do everything in my power as your elected sheriff to protect and preserve your constitutional, inalienable rights to keep and bear arms.”

Last year, Lewis brought forward a resolution to the county council to declare Wicomico a Second Amendment preservation county, or a county that opposes the enforcement of gun control measures viewed as a violation of the Second Amendment

Lewis told officials at the time “legislative hurdles” made it difficult for law-abiding individuals to legally purchase firearms. He said the resolution would send a message that local elected leaders supported Second Amendment rights.

However, a coalition of seven organizations – including the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus, Wicomico County NAACP, Wicomico PUSH4Education, Wicomico Truth and Reconciliation Initiative, the City of Salisbury Lynching Memorial Task Force, Salisbury Junior Chamber of Commerce and Moms Demand Action – issued a statement calling on the Wicomico County Council to delay voting on the resolution, arguing it did not take into account racial disparities in how minorities are treated in gun ownership and used language “that is currently anti-democracy and contrary to Rule of Law.”

Lewis ultimately withdrew the resolution last June in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, but vowed to bring the matter back before the council.

This week, Councilman Bill McCain questioned why the proclamation was on the council’s agenda. President Larry Dodd said he added it at the request of the sheriff.

“We get requests for proclamations all the time,” Dodd replied.

McCain questioned if Lewis would continue to enforce the laws of the state. The sheriff replied that he would.

“As sheriff, I have the distinct pleasure to represent everyone here in this county, and I treasure this distinction,” he said. “Regardless of your race, ethnicity or gender, I represent you, I represent your families and I represent your futures. It is my constitutional duty to protect you, and that’s why tonight I’m issuing the following proclamation.”

During a public comments portion of the meeting, Wicomico County NAACP President Dr. Brante Dashiell spoke in opposition to the proclamation.

“We know we’re at a very hypersensitive point, not just with COVID but from all the things that happened this summer with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery,” she said. “We really want to be consonant on what we are signing, what we are promoting and what synergy that sends to our community.”

Councilman Ernie Davis stressed that it was the responsibility of sheriff’s office to enforce all laws.

“If any law is passed through the state, we as a county cannot override them,” he said. “We cannot pick and choose what laws we want to abide by. If the state passes a law we don’t agree with, you have to go to the state and fight them. We cannot fight that battle. Whether I agree with this Second Amendment right to bear arms or not, we do not have a position and we do not have the authority to say we want to make Wicomico a Second Amendment sanctuary because that’s what we want. We cannot do that.”

Councilman John Cannon, however, argued Lewis’ proclamation was symbolic.

“He is a man of integrity and has a lot of concern for every citizen in this county, and he does, and would, put his life on the line for anyone in this room or any one of the 100,000 citizens of this county …,” he said. “He said it was symbolic, he upholds the values of the Constitution and respectively the Second Amendment, and I think that was simply his position tonight.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

Alternative Text

Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.