Verndale resident Ralph Miller made a comparison Tuesday morning before a crowd of Second Amendment supporters at the Wadena County Courthouse. He explained how his rights to smoke were gradually taken away from him. While it wasn’t illegal for him to smoke everywhere, he slowly lost his rights to smoke in certain areas. He’s not upset about the fact that he hasn’t smoked for the last seven years, but he sees how government regulations could slowly take away the right to bear arms. That's something that upsets him and many others who shared their thoughts with the county board.
“What’s going on in Virginia is a good example of what’s little-by-little taking place clear across the United States,” Miller said. “There is not going to be a confiscation of your guns, they are not going to come knocking on your door. What they are going to do is little-by-little, inch into your front porch.”
Wadena County Commissioners passed a resolution 4-1 Tuesday morning, in an attempt to protect Second Amendment rights of county residents. A crowd of over 25 attended to hear the “Second Amendment Dedicated County” resolution. All that spoke or shouted during the public input were in favor of protection of Second Amendment rights.
“I have received more phone calls about this issue than I have the last 50 issues put together,” board chair Chuck Horsager said of the topic. “Every single person, every email, every phone call was in support of this.”
He stated that it was unfortunate that the county even had to put forth a resolution to further uphold the Constitution. A number of vocal audience members made it all the more clear that they wanted the county government to do anything in their power to protect that right. Commissioner Jon Kangas said he’s also been getting phone calls on the subject and began talking with Commissioner Sheldon Monson a couple months ago. He said the county board needed to make a statement so the state knew where they stood.
“We are making a public statement so they know where some of the counties stand,” Kangas said. “If they don’t hear from us, they hear from somebody else.”
Monson suggested to audience members that they should consider reaching out to their state representatives about gun rights legislation as he said they are responsive to their constituents.
After Roseau County approved a resolution last week, being the first county in the state to do so, Monson obtained a signed copy of the Roseau document and used it as the basis for the Wadena County resolution. It was an exact replica except replacing Roseau County with Wadena County. In discussing the resolution, commissioners made one change to the document adding language that they support the rights of all citizens of Wadena County to keep and bear arms, “except those prohibited by current law.”
Monson pointed out that nowhere in the document does it use the word “sanctuary.” Stearns indicated that using the “sanctuary” word suggests changes to the law. Board members made it clear that this resolution does nothing to take away the authority of the county sheriff or county attorney to enforce the law.
“If you’re going to carry a gun in your car, it’s got to be cased, if you’re going to carry a gun on your person, you’ve got to have a permit,” Stearns said. “All those gun laws are still in effect. All we are doing is stating that we believe in the Second Amendment right to carry guns, kind of a general statement.”
“We just don’t want bills that say we’re gonna come out and take your guns because the neighbor down the road says you’re a nutcase -- without due process,” audience member John Finnegan responded.
Commissioners approached Finnegan for his opinion on the matter months ago. Finnegan spoke with District 9A Rep. John Poston and District 9 Sen. Paul Gazelka, each responded positively to the idea of a show of support for protecting the Second Amendment, Finnegan said. Finnegan then spoke with sportsmen's clubs in Wadena and Staples and heard overwhelming support from them.
“This is not something we just jumped on real quick, like this has been going on for a while,” Finnegan said.
Finnegan said this resolution serves as a political statement rather than a law, saying “Look, St. Paul butt out. We don’t want your rules and regulations out here.”
Craig Folkestad was in the standing area in the rear of the room and said this was not a party issue, it’s a Constitutional right.
The only commissioner opposed to the resolution was commissioner Jim Hofer, who said that he was in favor of protecting Second Amendment rights, just not with this resolution.
“The resolution before us does pit us against federal and state laws,” Hofer said.
He said he would represent the county locally and abroad showing support for Second Amendment rights, but he felt that approving the resolution did not give the county any clout in overriding laws.
“We are not afforded the ability to pick and choose which laws we will or will not abide by,” Hofer said.
Others in the audience responded to Hofer saying that they elect the sheriff and they do have a say in who is in that position.
The resolution states that the commissioners’ intent is to uphold the Second Amendment rights of citizens in the county; that public funds would not be used to restrict the Second Amendment rights of citizens or aid federal or state agencies in the restrictions; and that they oppose any infringement on the right of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms using such legal means as may be expedient, including, without limitation, court action.
“Do not take my rights away unless you pack a lunch, because it’s going to take a while” said Jerry Grewing, a county resident among the crowd.
Grewing went on to state that Common Core, an educational initiative from 2010 that details what K–12 students throughout the United States should know in English language arts and mathematics at the conclusion of each school grade, was “a Communist sickness that’s going around this country.”
“I am so proud that we have a President Trump that is going to back us on the Second Amendment,” Grewing said. “He’s backing us on everything else that is great for this country.”
Grewing suggested the crowd watch FOX news rather than bury their heads and ignore the problems going on in the country. He offered another opinion in a story about a county sheriff in Idaho who apparently told a driver that his gun should be loaded and ready for action.
“That’s the kind of sheriff and deputies we want in our county -- stand for us!” Grewing shouted. It was one opinion brought up that others in the room verbally disagreed with.