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Gun resolution passes in split vote

Jordan Beck | Daily Press Commissioner Theresa Nelson expresses her concerns about a resolution that will make Delta County a “sanctuary county” for the Second Amendment during a Delta County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday.

ESCANABA — After hearing arguments for and against a proposed resolution to make Delta County a “sanctuary county” for the Second Amendment from county residents, the Delta County Board of Commissioners narrowly voted to adopt the resolution Tuesday.

Under the resolution, Delta County will be declared a Second Amendment sanctuary county. The board will support the county’s sheriff and prosecuting attorney in the exercise of their discretion to not enforce unconstitutional firearms laws.

The decision to move forward with the resolution was made during the board’s regular meeting Tuesday evening, which was held at the Delta County Courthouse instead of the Delta County Service Center due to anticipated attendance levels. Community involvement met board members’ expectations, with more than 100 people present at the meeting.

The possibility of naming Delta County a Second Amendment sanctuary county has been discussed by the board since Nov. 25, 2019, when Commissioner David Moyle shared an early draft of the resolution. Discussion continued at the board’s Jan. 14 committee of the whole meeting and Jan. 21 regular meeting; at the Jan. 14 meeting, board members agreed to put the proposal on the agenda for their Feb. 4 meeting.

A significant portion of Tuesday’s meeting was dedicated to public comment on the proposed resolution. People on both sides of the issue shared their thoughts and feelings at the meeting.

Speaking on behalf of the Delta County Gun Owners Association (DCGOA), Wells Township resident Robert Petersen addressed the question of why the proposal focused solely on the Second Amendment instead of the entire Bill of Rights.

“The Second Amendment is constantly under assault from people and politicians that have no regard for inherent right to self-preservation. Today, there are many bills right here in the state of Michigan just waiting for the right minute to be passed into law that would totally gut our inherent right to keep and bear arms,” he said.

Petersen discussed the importance of the Second Amendment to the Constitution as a whole.

“The future of the entire Constitution rests on the shoulders of the Second Amendment. Without the power to defend it, the Constitution is nothing more than a piece of paper,” he said.

Diane Weber, of Gladstone, spoke about the proposed resolution’s role as a precautionary measure. By way of example, she noted people are willing to prepare for cold weather or flu season.

“But when it comes to our freedom and our Second Amendment — the cancer that is eating away at us — we put our head in the sand, we say ‘what does that mean to us? That doesn’t matter to us. I don’t think we need to have anything to do with that,'” she said.

According to Webber, her husband, son and grandson have “sacrificed greatly” to protect her Second Amendment rights.

“I also have a Bible at home that I have read cover-to-cover several times, and the one who initiated the freedom in the first place and inspired those to go on to fight for it says if I don’t speak up, stand up, fight and vote for those who are morally for this, then I am going to be held accountable,” she said.

On the other hand, Denise Young — a Ford River resident and local teacher — spoke about her experiences doing safety drills with her students after the Columbine High School massacre.

“Try going back to teaching once you’ve traumatized a classroom of innocent children, and it’s not very easy,” she said.

Young also voiced concerns related to the board’s decision to spend time on what she described as a “redundant resolution.”

“Let’s put all this fervor and all this passion in this room towards far more important issues, such as the well-being of our most valuable resource — our children,” she said.

Escanaba resident Wendy Pepin implied the proposed resolution was linked to the DCGOA.

“Board members who belong to this club must ethically abstain from voting on this resolution,” she said.

Additionally, she felt the proposal could open the county up to legal repercussions.

“I’m a taxpayer, and I’m one of your 35,965 bosses … I am not willing to pay for those lawsuits,” Pepin said.

After members of the public shared their thoughts on the proposed resolution, commissioners discussed it amongst themselves. In response to Pepin’s concerns, Moyle — who is a member of the DCGOA — said the proposal was unrelated to the association.

“Though I respect the people in that club, they are their own entity — they go their own way, do their own thing,” Moyle said.

Commissioner Gerard Tatrow expressed his support of the proposal.

“I think I want to live in a place that is a sanctuary for … the whole Constitution, and specifically the Second Amendment,” he said.

Vice-Chair David Rivard, however, had mixed feelings.

“I’ve thought about this literally day and night,” he said of the proposed resolution.

One of Rivard’s issues with the proposal concerned its last paragraph, which directed the board’s staff to send copies of the resolution to elected officials on the state and federal levels. He felt the language could be interpreted as asking staff members to send letters personally supporting the proposal to elected officials; however, Moyle said that was not its intent.

Commissioner Theresa Nelson said that, while she fully supported the Second Amendment, she did not think the board should get involved with what she described as a “political movement.”

“This should never be at our level. We do still have state government here, and the state can come in and tell us we can’t even do this,” she said.

Instead, she said the board should focus on issues that are closer to home.

“We should be concerned with things that are just going on right here in Delta County,” Nelson said.

Ultimately, Moyle, Tatrow and Chair Patrick Johnson voted in favor of the proposal while Nelson and Rivard voted against it. People in attendance at the meeting applauded once the final vote was taken.

After the meeting, Rivard said he voted against the resolution due to potential legal implications for the county and the confusion it could create.

“We have amendments — we have a constitution,” he said.

In other business, the board:

– approved an agreement to share the services of Emergency Management Coordinator Paul Geyer with Schoolcraft County.

– approved a loan renewal for the airplane on display outside the entrance to the Delta County Airport.

– approved requests to fill a misdemeanor intake clerk/office support position and a corrections officer position.

– voted to amend dental adjustment payment program resolution language to stay within the program’s appropriation.

– accepted a revised version of the county’s remonumentation plan for 2020.

– approved out-of-county travel so commissioners can attend an Upper Peninsula Association of County Commissioners conference on May 7 and 8 at the Island Resort & Casino in Harris.

– approved recently-adopted Local Emergency Planning Committee bylaws and the committee’s membership for 2020.

– heard about a MSU Extension fall management program starting next month.

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