Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect the supremacy clause, which says a local government unit, such as a county, cannot have an ordinance that is less restrictive than state or federal law.
The Hubbard County Board received a request Tuesday to adopt a resolution expressing their intent “to uphold and protect the 2nd Amendment,” declare the county a “2nd Amendment sanctuary” and promise to “oppose any infringement on the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.”
Jason “Bucky” Johnson of Park Rapids and Matthew Berge of Bemidji presented the resolution.
Berge, a Farden Township resident, told commissioners “it’s a fairly critical time,” with the Minnesota House recently passing two “poorly written” gun control bills. One bill expands criminal background checks to cover most private firearms transfers. The second bill enacts a red flag law to let courts temporarily remove guns from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
Berge said he submitted the resolution on behalf of a number of concerned county residents. About 20 attended Tuesday’s board meeting.
The time for Hubbard County to say the 2nd Amendment “is an enumerated right is now, not after a bad law is passed and puts our law enforcement in a poor position to make this moral dilemma on their own, putting their job in jeopardy, their family in jeopardy,” Berge said. “We are seeing movement in St. Paul to undermine this very critical right, in my opinion. It’s time to take a stand, and that’s why I’m submitting this for consideration at this point.”
Eight counties, including Wadena, have so far vowed to not use county funds to enforce laws that they believe restrict citizens’ constitutional rights to keep and bear arms.
Johnson said the goal behind the House bills “is to reduce gun crime and keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill.” As a first responder and emergency medical technician for 24 years, Johnson said he’s seen a lot of suicides. Mental illness “has exploded in the last 10 years. I get it. Their hearts are in the right place when (legislators) did this,” he said, but “it’s appeasing the public,” while throwing “the right to due process totally out the window.”
Johnson said time, energy and resources would be better spent on facilities or workers to help the mentally ill, not infringing on gun control. He argued that the bill’s language about mental disorders is so vague it could apply to everyone.
Johnson said the Hubbard County 2nd Amendment group has about 800 members. A petition is circulating.
Board chair Char Christenson asked Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes, if the red flag bill becomes law and the county decides to become a 2nd Amendment sanctuary, “what would you do?”
“It depends on the circumstances and how the final law comes out. Every circumstance is different. Even though we have the authority, by law, to do something doesn’t mean that we necessarily would. Maybe there would be value, no public safety purpose for us in doing it,” Aukes replied.
In addition, Aukes said, local deputies do not enforce any federal law.
County commissioner David De La Hunt noted that a lower jurisdiction can’t have a less restrictive law than the state or federal government.
“I’m certainly a 2nd Amendment supporter,” he said, but said any resolution or proclamation could not say “sanctuary county” because “that, I believe, puts us in a position that might be in conflict with supremacy clause.”
Johnson noted some counties are using the phrase “2nd Amendment dedicated.”
De La Hunt said the sheriff and county attorney would also have to review the resolution.
Commissioners agreed to discuss it further at their April 14 work session, then make a decision at their April 21 regular meeting.