Judge dismisses Columbia County firearm validation proceedings
Updated Aug. 3.
A Columbia County judge has dismissed the court case reviewing the validity of two gun rights measures approved by voters in recent years.
The Columbia County Board of Commissioners asked the court to review the Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance (SASO) and Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance (SAPO), and an ordinance adopted by the commissioners which merged the SASO and SAPO.
Columbia County Circuit Judge Ted Grove issued his opinion in court Thursday afternoon, July 29.
State law allows governing bodies to seek judicial review of ordinances when there is a "justiciable controversy."
In his opinion, Grove said the county, through its attorneys, "have not demonstrated such a controversy."
Through the petition for judicial review, county leaders "seek what amounts to an advisory opinion designed to invalidate their own newly passed ordinance," Grove wrote.
Grove's decision did not address the legality of the voter-approved measures, which prohibit county enforcement of most state and federal gun control measures.
The state attorney general and attorneys with the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety, represented by the firm Stoll Berne, had each entered their own filings in the case, arguing that the two measures violated state and federal laws and would prevent local officials like the sheriff and district attorney from fulfilling their duties.
Grove said the involvement of those "intervenors" did not constitute a justiciable controversy.
Sarah Hanson, the county's lead attorney, said she did not know if the commissioners intend to appeal Grove's decision.
"I strongly disagree with Judge Grove's decision that there is no justiciable controversy in this case and his dismissal of the petition for validation," Hanson told the Spotlight. "However, I don't know yet if the county will appeal the decision not to decide the case on its merits."
"We will be considering an appeal or other alternatives to obtain a prompt decision confirming this ordinance is unconstitutional and unlawful," Steve Berman, a Stoll Berne attorney, said through an Everytown spokesperson.
Chris Brumbles, who spearheaded both ballot measures and the opposition to the judicial validation process, said the judge's decision was "a good start."
Asked about next steps, Brumbles said he has "several things in the works" but declined to provide more details.
Brumbles also said Hanson should be fired. Brumbles said that Hanson claimed the county was taking a neutral stance on the ordinance but "did everything she could to extirpate the will of the people."
The county's initial petition for judicial review lists dozens of potential issues with the ordinance, but it carefully framed each as a topic for the court to evaluate, rather than asserting that the ordinance was legal or illegal.
But in a July 8 filing, the county forcefully pushed back on arguments made in an earlier filing by an attorney for Brumbles and other SASO and SAPO supporters.
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