Taking time to think

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton County resident Matthew Wright speaks in support of a resolution to declare Houghton County a Second Amendment sanctuary county. The county board voted the resolution down 3-2 Wednesday night.


Houghton Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON — By a 3-2 vote, the Houghton County Board of Commissioners recently voted down a revised resolution on becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary county, a month after tabling the original proposal.

Commissioners Glenn Anderson, Roy Britz and Gretchen Janssen voted against the resolution. Chairman Al Koskela and Vice Chairman Tom Tikkanen supported it.

Tikkanen opted for a resolution declaring Houghton County a sanctuary county over others based on resolutions passed in other counties. They stopped short of a sanctuary declaration, but passed resolutions supporting Constitutional rights.

Tikkanen said while the resolution is symbolic, it sends an important message to Lansing about the value Houghton County puts on gun rights.

“There are limitations constantly being placed on individual ownership … It’s a slow cumulative effect that eventually many fear are going to result in our Second Amendment rights being virtually nonexistent,” he said.

In an interview Thursday, Britz said he was put off by the usage of “sanctuary.” Despite it being a non-binding resolution, he said, people could take the resolution as a sign that the county will be a refuge from gun laws.

“The word sanctuary may give the thought to certain persons that it’s a place to come and bring some of their problems with them,” he said Thursday. “I don’t believe in that.”

Britz said he would gladly have voted for another resolution given to commissioners modeled on one passed in Huron County. That one asked state and federal legislators to maintain the Constitution as is.

“I would absolutely have supported that one,” he said Thursday. “It didn’t say anything about sanctuary. The word sanctuary just didn’t fit with me.”

The revised resolution removed several provisions commissioners had objected to at the previous meeting. In a list of means the commission would take to protect the right to bear arms, the board removed “the power to direct the law enforcement and employees of Houghton County to not enforce any unconstitutional law.”

Britz approved of the change, but said a clause directing the county not to use “county resources or funds” towards laws judged to violate the Second Amendment was effectively a backdoor to accomplish the same thing.

“I believe it’s the responsibility of people to vote into office at the state and federal level people we trust that will support the Constitution and not try to change the amendments,” he said. “We have other avenues rather than to start doing county-level resolutions that mean nothing.”

Three other paragraphs were removed from the resolution introduced in February. Two affirmed the board’s support for “constitutional carry” legislation, which would allow people to carry a gun without a license, and stated no citizens should be arrested or prosecuted for exercising those rights. The other stated the rights in the Second Amendment and Article 1, Section 6 of the Michigan Constitution apply to all arms, including modern sporting rifle.

The meeting drew about 60 people, down from the 100 or so who attended February’s meeting. Most who spoke during public comment supported the resolution.

Houghton County Prosecutor Brittany Bulleit did not speak for or against the resolution, calling it more of a political issue than a legal issue. She did give the board some relevant case law and other legal issues. Under state law, the county board cannot pass ordinances that contravene state laws, she said.

“While I understand the proposed document is a resolution, and not an ordinance, I think it is still important to note this distinction because it sets forth a legal limitation in powers,” she said. “Further, many requests included in the resolution are not included in the powers given in the statute. That idea should be considered in deciding what portions of the resolution, if any, to pass.”

Bulleit also referenced MCL 123.1102, which says local units of government shall not “impose special taxation on, enact or enforce” any ordinance or regulations on guns except as provided by state or federal law.

“Thus, many requests in the resolution could potentially go against the above statute and would have no legal backing, unless the state or federal government passed their own laws,” Bulleit said.

The longterm legal repercussions of a declaration as a sanctuary county are unknowable, Bulleit said.

In a statement on the amendment introduced in February, the Michigan Attorney General’s office said it views Houghton County and others’ resolutions as a policy issue. Because the board still has to follow Michigan’s firearms laws, the resolution would have no actual effect.

“We would view Houghton’s proposed resolution as a policy/political statement by the Houghton County Board of Commissioners, which we respect as their right to engage in free speech — always with the reminder that of course Houghton County remains subject to all enacted firearms legislation,” the statement said.

After the vote, Hancock resident Justin Kasieta, who brought the Second Amendment resolution to the board, said he was disappointed.

“I think that the community supports this resolution and we’re going to keep pushing for it,” he said. “Commissioners may see a response to what they voted for in November.”


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