For well over a year now, a group of Second Amendment supporters in western Minnesota have been trying to get their county commissioners to take up and approve a Second Amendment Sanctuary ordinance, but the commissioners themselves don’t have any interest in doing so. On Tuesday, those frustrations boiled over, and several local activists ended up interrupting the latest meeting of the Otter Tail County Commission to demand that a vote take place.
“You are there to represent us, we, the people,” said a woman who did not identify herself and who said her group has tried unsuccessfully to get on the county’s agenda. “And it’s not your obligation to ignore us.” She interrupted the county attorney, Michelle Eldien, who was attempting to respond, and Board Chairman Lee Rogness threatened to have her removed if she did not allow Eldien to speak.
Halfway through the woman’s comments, the county’s video livestream of the meeting stopped working and didn’t pick up again until the protesters left the room. County chairman Lee Rogness had indicated before the meeting started the commission was experiencing technical difficulties with the livestream feed, and county spokesperson Shannon Terry said that the lapse in coverage was caused by a technical failure and not by a decision to cut the feed.
Terry said that the group had members inside and outside the courtroom and that they were demonstrating peacefully.
I completely understand the frustration of these activists. Having been a part of the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement in my home state of Virginia, I’ve seen county supervisors who were similarly reluctant to take up the issue. In fact, I’ve heard local officials make the exact same argument against 2A Sanctuary resolutions as the commissioners in Otter Tail County made after Tuesday’s meeting concluded.
On Tuesday, the board released a statement reiterating its opposition to voting on sanctuary status and saying that its job is to tend to roads and bridges, public safety and natural resources, not resolutions that don’t pertain to county services.“Recently, commissioners and county boards across the country have been asked to weigh in on a variety of issues that do not directly pertain to county services,” the statement said, in part. “County boards have been asked to pass resolutions on gun control, school choice, immigration and refugee policy, COVID-19 business closures, mask mandates, and a host of other topics.“Today, a group of Otter Tail County citizens exercised their 1st amendment right at the Government Services Center in Fergus Falls by peacefully gathering and expressing their support of the 2nd amendment.“While we are fervent supporters of the United States constitution and all 27 amendments, it is inappropriate for the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners to pass a symbolic proclamation about the 2nd amendment or any other topic outside of our purview.”
That’s a bit of a dodge, to be honest. It may be that the vast majority of the work done by elected county officials aren’t exactly political in nature, but there’s nothing precluding these officials from weighing in on other issues, even if they believe their pronouncements are more symbolic than substantive.
“It is inappropriate to mislead the public by pretending we have some authority over these issues when we do not,” the statement said.
It also said that in light of its many responsibilities, all statutory or mandated by the state, it approved a proclamations and resolutions policy in December that says the county would focus on issues it is responsible for and “stay in our lane.”
These commissioners have authority over how county funds are spent, which means its entirely in their lane to adopt a policy that no funds will be spent enforcing any new federally-imposed restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. Now maybe these commissioners don’t want to adopt that policy, but they shouldn’t pretend that they don’t have the power to do so.