county commissioners court

Members of county commissioners court, from left, Commissioner Pct. 1 Martin Wardlaw, Commissioner Pct. 2 Juan Carlos Vazquez, County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr., Commissioner Pct. 3 Beau Nettleton and Commissioner Pct. 4 Gustavo “Gus” Flores, discuss a “gun sanctuary county” resolution during the court’s regular term meeting Wednesday.

Val Verde County Commissioners Court on Wednesday voted down a resolution declaring Val Verde County a “gun sanctuary county.”

Following a motion by County Commissioner Pct. 3 Beau Nettleton to approve the resolution, County Commissioner Pct. 1 Martin Wardlaw gave the second.

County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. then read the five-page resolution.

Following the reading and comments by the judge and commissioners, the court voted 2-3 on the resolution, with Owens, County Commissioner Pct. 2 Juan Carlos Vazquez and County Commissioner Pct. 4 Gustavo “Gus” Flores voting against the motion.

After the resolution was read and before the vote, Nettleton said, “Judge, I put this on the agenda because as we continue to listen to the rhetoric coming out of Washington and even some coming out of Austin, about infringing on our rights, and while this resolution has no power to enforce, it still takes a stand on where we stand as far as gun laws and people’s rights to bear arms.

“We all know that criminals are not going to follow the laws and the people that are going to get infringed, as we continue to look at new gun laws, are the law-abiding citizens,” Nettleton said.

He noted there have been 11 counties in the state and a number outside the state that have passed the “gun sanctuary county” resolution.

“I think it’s time we stand up for our constituents that we represent and their rights under the Constitution,” Nettleton said.

Owens said no member of commissioners court “wants to do anything against the Constitution of the United States.”

“All of us up here are gun owners,” the judge said.

Owens said, however, that he has “a problem” with one paragraph of the resolution, which reads, “Val Verde County, Texas, will not authorize or appropriate government funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers or offices for the purposes of enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of any element of such acts, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations, that infringe on the right by the people to keep and bear arms as described and defined in detail above.”

Owens said he also had an issue with naming the sheriff in the resolution, adding if the court wants the resolution, it should be passed by the court.

Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez, who was invited to address the court on the issue, said the resolution has been a topic of discussion among county officials for a week or so.

“After reading it and after talking to some of you, I agree with you, judge, on what’s it going to do to detention centers? We have a contract. How is that going to affect our partnership with the GEO Group? I don’t have a problem with all of this, but when we get to that, I can see where that can affect us,” Martinez said.

He added, “There are some citizens in our community; it’s a handful, but there are some citizens that I believe are a danger to our community. For the most part, the majority of our citizens are law-abiding citizens, and I don’t have one bit of an issue with that, but when we have people that have displayed mental health issues, at some point in time, someone is going to have to take a stance against that.”

Vazquez also commented before casting his vote.

“I have a lot of rifles, and I think everybody here knows where I stand on the Second Amendment, but I am worried about the wrong people, just a few, ending up with some weapons that they shouldn’t even be close to,” Vazquez said.

Wardlaw added his own comments.

“Some of you know that I was robbed a few years ago and got into a fight with the outlaw and finally got him under control, had to hold him at gunpoint until the sheriff’s department came and picked him up. Now that’s something I’m not going to forget, and it stays with me, and I would appreciate this being passed. We need to make a statement to everybody,” Wardlaw said.

“I believe we have the right to bear arms, but the way it stands, I can’t vote for this,” Owens said.

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