Sheriff Murphree

Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree speaks to a crowd inside the Denton County commissioners courtroom in May 2018. The sheriff on Tuesday offered the commissioners a resolution affirming the U.S. Constitution.

Tuesday in Denton County Commissioners Court, Sheriff Tracy Murphree offered a resolution that declared the county’s support for the U.S. Constitution and all its amendments, not just the Second.

Murphree, who has at times received national attention for sharing his political beliefs, said last week he was mulling a resolution that would reassure Denton County residents that officials here would protect their Second Amendment rights — referred to broadly as a “Second Amendment sanctuary county.” Murphree had said the resolution was needed in case the 2020 election produced an anti-gun president — repeatedly naming former candidate Beto O’Rourke, who said he would confiscate assault-style weapons if elected.

Murphree said last week he was researching what other counties have done in this area. Recently, Hood and Collin counties passed similar resolutions affirming Second Amendment rights. Murphree said states passing “red flag” gun laws and gun rights debates as part of the 2020 presidential election have unnerved gun owners in Denton County.

But in court on Tuesday, Murphree stepped back from that pursuit and instead offered commissioners a resolution that did not focus on guns — though as he began his presentation to the court, he reasserted some of his beliefs about gun rights.

“First of all, I would like to talk about my stance on the Second Amendment,” the sheriff said. Talking about the framers of the Constitution, “They knew that disarming citizens is the first step in an oppressive government taking over.”

Officially, the resolution is in support of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. (Before assuming office, elected officials take an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution.)

There is no word about “sanctuary” in the resolution, which the Commissioners Court unanimously passed Tuesday morning. Murphree said he doesn’t like the connotation that word carries.

When he made his remarks last week, Murphree did not offer a timeline for when he would present his resolution to the commissioners. He did not say he planned to have it done by this week.

“Our freedom of speech, freedom of religion, our freedom to due process are also under attack,” Murphree said Tuesday. “I didn’t want to just make this all about the Second Amendment.”

Residents who showed up to court Tuesday did not have the chance to see the resolution before arriving to court. The only advance mention was when the Denton Record-Chronicle on Dec. 12 published the sheriff’s intent to craft a resolution in support of the Second Amendment.

“We are facing a gun violence crisis in this country,” said a resident from Flower Mound, who said she was a volunteer of the Texas Chapter of Moms Demand Action, an organization focused on gun reform. “In states across the country, law enforcement groups have strongly urged lawmakers to work together to pass commonsense gun laws.”

Only after she spoke against a resolution did Commissioner Ron Marchant tell her the county was not going to declare itself a “sanctuary county.”

“We are not designating this county as being a sanctuary county based on the Second Amendment,” Marchant said. “Would you like a copy of it, or would you like for me to read it to you?”

Jennifer Skidonenko, a candidate running in the upcoming primary for Texas House District 106, told commissioners she read the Record-Chronicle article and came to court prepared to take a stance against such a designation.

“That’s why we do business here and not through the news media,” Marchant said.

County Judge Andy Eads, who did not respond to a request for comment last week after the sheriff’s remarks were made, said, “I’m not going to comment.”

“We know what Murphree wanted,” Skidonenko wrote later on Twitter. “At the end of the day, they didn’t declare 2A sanctuary, they found a way around it. The message is quite clear.”

To close his presentation of the resolution, before reading it to the court, Murphree said, “I am a firm believer that our forefathers in the First Amendment put in the basic rights that every individual should have, and in the Second Amendment, showed us how we keep them.”

DALTON LAFERNEY can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @daltonlaferney.

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