But cannot commit to impeding enforcement of gun laws
A Facebook group with over 3,000 members started a petition for Morrison County to be designated as a Second Amendment Dedicated County.
The movement gained enough traction to enable conversation among the county commissioners, who have discussed the issue lightly at the past few meetings. They had come to enough of a conclusion by Tuesday’s meeting to add a discussion to the planning session agenda.
Corinna Moeller, the woman who started the online group, attended the meeting with a few other supporters. She said she became concerned when she heard about the possibility of red flag laws and universal background checks being established in the state, which she believes infringe on the rights of others.
At the end of February, the House passed two bills, HF8 and HF9 the first bill would expand background checks for personal gun exchanges and the second would allow family members or law enforcement to temporarily remove a person’s weapon from their home if a judge found them to be a threat to themselves or others.
HF9 is essentially a red flag law, which varies from state to state. Many states only allow family/household members and/or a judge and law enforcement to petition the temporary removal of a firearm from a dangerous or mentally unsound person. Other states include mental health and hospital workers or school administration, and just one state allows non-family coworkers to file a petition. All of which must be presented with evidence that the person is a danger to themselves or others.
After the mass shooting killing 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, the number of states with red flag laws increased from five to 17. There have also been studies linking red flag laws to decreases in state firearm suicide rates.
County Attorney Brian Middendorf attended the meeting to provide insight on the legal aspects of counties becoming Second Amendment “sanctuary” counties.
“Counties aren’t sovereigns by themselves. We aren’t a sovereign nation. Counties in other municipalities are political subdivisions of the state of Minnesota so we have no inherent powers of our own. We have only the powers granted to us by the Legislature. So we can enact regulations only as conferred by statute,” he said.
The county cannot pass any laws or create any resolutions that would restrict or impede upon state laws, Middendorf said. And if they were to become a so-called sanctuary county and announced they would not abide by certain state laws, it would not be legally binding and likely struck down in a court of law.
Board members and county employees got together to discuss how to approach the request to become a county that would not enforce or abide by any new state gun laws.
“When thinking about what it is we could do, and understanding what it is we can’t do as an organization we talked about what and how can we offer support to that concept that we do believe in the Second Amendment,” said County Administrator Deb Gruber.
The Morrison County Second Amendment Coalition asked that the county would adopt a law or resolution to prohibit the enforcement of new gun laws. In that, they said the county would prohibit any employee from enforcing new laws and the county from using funding to carry out the enforcement of said laws.
The Coalition specifically listed red flag laws and universal background checks as laws they hope the county will not enforce.
Although the county has no authority to restrict the enforcement of those laws, Gruber said they can attempt to influence lawmakers not to impede on rights for citizens legally able to own guns in the county.
With that, the county brought forward a resolution not to become a sanctuary county in any way, but to announce the Board’s commitment to the Second Amendment.
“The Morrison County Board of Commissioners wishes to express its deep commitment to the rights of all citizens of Morrison County to keep and bear arms except those prohibited by current law,” said the resolution. “The Morrison County Board of Commissioners wishes to express its intent to stand as a county dedicated to Second Amendment rights.”
Sheriff Shawn Larsen echoed Gruber by saying if there were gun laws put into effect by the state, he would be legally obligated to follow through on any actions to enforce those laws. However, Larsen said he personally isn’t in favor of red flag laws and thinks they may put the public and law enforcement at risk.
“Obviously I do support the Second Amendment right. I can tell you I have some concerns. If you talk to 100 different law enforcement officers you’re not going to get the same answer across the board. However, if you’re asking for my opinion, I think seizing a firearm without immediate due process is very dangerous,” Larsen said.
The resolution, which has no actions attached to it other than being a statement, has been added to the agenda for the next board meeting Tuesday, March 10, where the commissioners will vote on whether to put it into effect or not.
“I think we’re doing the right thing in letting the people of Morrison County know that they don’t have to worry or they don’t have to question whether or not this board or leadership within this county will do everything they can to uphold the Second Amendment right,” said Commissioner Greg Blaine.