Second Amendment protesters interrupted the Otter Tail County Commission meeting in Fergus Falls on Tuesday, Sept. 28, demanding that the county hear their request to provide additional protections for gun owners — a move that commissioners said would not change the freedom to bear arms in the county.
“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 call her out of order 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.
For more than a year, a group of Otter Tail County residents has been pushing commissioners to vote on a resolution to declare the county a Second Amendment sanctuary. They contend that the measure would protect gun owners from red flag laws and other gun-control laws that some believe violate the Second Amendment. Red-flag laws, which would allow for a court-ordered temporary removal of firearms from a potentially dangerous person, have not passed in Minnesota.
In early 2020, the commission announced it would take the group's recommendation under advisement, and has not taken further action on it.
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."
Its reasons are that its powers are limited and drawn solely from the state, and that it exists to administer the law locally.
"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."
The county also said they trust law enforcement officials.
"After consulting with our County Sheriff and County Attorney, these resolutions do nothing to further protect an Otter Tail County citizen’s right to keep and bear arms which is expressly guaranteed by the Second Amendment and has been reaffirmed by the US Supreme Court," the statement said.