By Shawn Raymundo
A nonbinding resolution that the city council passed on Tuesday, June 1, declared San Clemente as a Second Amendment Freedom City—a slight departure from the initial proposal by Mayor Pro Tem Gene James that called for a sanctuary city designation.
The council’s 3-2 vote, with Mayor Kathy Ward and Councilmember Chris Duncan opposed, followed comments from more than three dozen residents who were largely divided on the symbolic resolution aimed at reinforcing the constitutional right to bear arms.
“I bring this up, because I do see many of our constitutional rights being trampled upon,” James, the author of the resolution, said on Tuesday night, referring to coronavirus-related restrictions during the pandemic.
James went on to also argue that Second Amendment rights in particular are under attack. As an example, he pointed to California’s list of firearms that must meet certain criteria and certified by the Department of Justice before being sold in the state.
“People say that our Second Amendment rights are not under attack. They certainly are under attack. In California, you can only buy a few firearms that are on the state’s DOJ-approved list,” he said, adding: “This is merely about the right to bear arms, and that shall not be infringed.”
Duncan on Tuesday night reiterated concerns he had previously expressed during the council’s May 18 meeting, when James tabled a vote on the resolution so residents could have an opportunity to read a draft of the proposal.
“I do think it would portray our city in a negative light and draw negative attention toward our city, which is exactly what we don’t need as we come out of the pandemic,” Duncan said. “We want our businesses to get roaring; we want our families to feel safe.”
Duncan also noted that he had trouble with the Sanctuary City declaration “because what other purpose other than potentially allowing immunity from other laws could it stand for?”
The resolution, which had become a divisive topic among residents in town, had originally called for San Clemente to be declared a Sanctuary City for the Second Amendment and gun owners.
However, James on Tuesday night dropped the “Sanctuary City” label after hearing from Councilmembers Laura Ferguson and Steven Knoblock, who had agreed with some of the opponents’ criticisms of the designation and its interpretation.
“I do have an issue, as many people have, with the word ‘sanctuary,’ ” Ferguson said. “It has a connotation that’s a little negative, or provides a refuge or safety from enforcement, and it’s created a lot of panic of the community in communications we’ve received.”
Knoblock echoed the sentiment, stating that the term “sanctuary” has been highjacked by cities refusing to impose federal immigration laws.
“Sanctuary, by definition, means place of refuge and safety,” he said. “That phrase has been hijacked in the last few years—actually the last decade or so—by those who have said we’re not going to have state or federal immigration laws enforced.”
The amended resolution, which now states that San Clemente is a “Second Amendment Freedom City and opposes any effort to eliminate or diminish the Second Amendment,” includes language encouraging gun owners to complete firearms safety courses, and for those who are parents to also teach their children about firearm safety.
Though James removed the references to the Sanctuary City in the resolution, Ward said she couldn’t support it unless it included language expressly stating that San Clemente supports the state’s laws.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.