Oneida County is now a Second Amendment sanctuary county after county supervisors voted 16-1 last week to approve the designation, with three supervisors absent and one seat vacant.
Alone among his colleagues, supervisor Alan VanRaalte cast the lone vote against the resolution declaring support for Second Amendment rights. Along the away, a few attempts were made to modify or postpone the resolution, but ultimately those failed and the resolution cruised to victory.
The resolution puts the county on record as recognizing and reaffirming supervisors' sworn oaths to uphold the U.S. constitution and the Wisconsin constitution, and it urged the governor and Legislature to do likewise.
As such, the resolution states, Oneida County opposes any executive or legislative action that would abrogate, diminish, or in any way infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of Oneida County, particularly measures that would ban or impose additional regulations on the possession and use of firearms, firearm accessories, magazines, and ammunition.
The resolution also puts Oneida County on record as opposing any executive or legislative action that would implement any firearms confiscation or "buy back" laws, implement any universal background checks or firearms owner ID requirements, or cause the establishment of a punitive tax on the purchase or possession of firearms, firearm accessories, magazines, and ammunition.
In addition, the resolution puts the county on record as opposing any executive or legislative action which would implement any type of "red flag" law that would abrogate, diminish, or in any way infringe upon the legal rights of due process for county citizens.
Perhaps most important, the resolution vows Oneida County will not appropriate any funds for the enforcement of unconstitutional laws, and the county board encourages law enforcement, the district attorney, and circuit court judges to enforce current laws related to Second Amendment rights.
A political statement
Supervisor Mike Timmons authored the resolution. He said at public safety meetings, several people had offered comments that the resolution was a political stunt, but Timmons disagreed.
"I don't believe this is a political stunt," Timmons said. "This is a statement from the people of Oneida County. I've gotten a lot more positive comments than negative. They say this is our constitutional duty to tell our higher-ups, if you will, that we do not want them to infringe upon our Second Amendment rights."
Oneida County's Sheriff's Office captain Terri Hook spoke on behalf of sheriff Grady Hartman, who supported the resolution. She said Hartman felt it was important for elected officials to go on record on the issue so voters would know where they stand.
"He (sheriff Hartman) believes that the resolution is symbolic, not binding, and that it's important because the governor started making comments about gun buy-backs, and that's not really what the governor is talking about, he's talking about gun confiscation," Hook told supervisors. "The sheriff is very pro-Second Amendment and he believes the people are very concerned about this and that they should hear your decision about it."
Timmons also said the resolution was needed now as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads and emergency declarations are made.
"With everything that's going on with the COVID-19, some of our neighboring states have tried to slide in through the emergencies not only the prohibition of selling alcohol but prohibitions of selling ammunition," he said. "I think this timing is absolutely important."
Supervisor Robb Jensen said he had received some calls from people who did not agree with the resolution. Jensen also said he believed such resolutions were appropriate only when there was pending legislation, and there was none he was aware of.
What's more, Jensen said the inclusion of specific measures within the resolution, such as opposing the implementation of universal background checks, were too sweeping.
"I can tell you right now the majority of the people (in my district) support the Second Amendment, but I don't know if I can specifically say that the majority of people (in my district) don't support universal background checks," Jensen said. "There's too much in here."
Jensen said it was a "get you" resolution.
"It's purely political," he said. "If I vote yes, then Robb Jensen doesn't support any type of gun control. If I vote no, then Robb Jensen doesn't support the Second Amendment. Nothing could be further from the truth."
A Jensen motion to postpone the resolution was defeated. In other discussion, supervisor Jack Sorensen supported the resolution.
"This is a political statement, I recognize that," Sorensen said. "... Am I 100% for everything that's said in the resolution? No, but it's here and it's now and I am going to support it all the way."
County board chairman Dave Hintz also said he supported the resolution.
"The sheriff used the word 'symbolic' to describe this, and I think that's appropriate," Hintz said. "We can argue over the words a bit here and there - we can do that all day if you like - but in my opinion it is one of those things that I think we should do. I feel sad that we have to do it in this country, but I feel sad that we have to put police officers in our schools."
Hintz said he wished it wasn't necessary to pass a resolution to support the constitution of the United States, but in this case he said he felt it was appropriate to do so.
Supervisor Ted Cushing, a supporter of the resolution, said he had been stopped by many constituents asking when the county was going to address the issue and asking why it was taking the county so long to do so.
"I will admit that I have had two phone calls and an email in the last three days to say no to this, but the majority of the people I represent are totally in favor of this," Cushing said. "We get more junk thrown at us out of Madison than you can shake a stick at, and this is a statement that says, 'C'mon guys wake up.' We have a right to tell them that."
Supervisors Bob Mott, Greg Oettinger, and Lance Krolczyk were absent. Former supervisor Bob Metropulos resigned from the county board because he moved out of the district.
Richard Moore is the author of the forthcoming "Storyfinding: From the Journey to the Story" and can be reached at richardmoorebooks.com.
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