CORUNNA — Shiawassee County moved one step closer to becoming a Second Amendment “sanctuary” county Wednesday as commissioners voted 6-1 to advance a resolution affirming residents’ right to bear arms to today’s full board meeting, set for 5 p.m. inside the Surbeck Building, 201 N. Shiawassee St.
Commissioner Marlene Webster, R-District 1, voted against the move during the panel’s Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday, citing troublesome language in the resolution that supports both the Shiawassee County Sheriff (Brian BeGole) and the Shiawassee County Prosecuting Attorney (Scott Koerner) “in the exercise of their sound discretion to enforce any and all constitutional firearm laws.”
“I strongly support Second Amendment rights and the Constitution, and I’m sure there are laws out there that are violating Second Amendment rights, but I think more core to the Constitution than the Second Amendment is the balance of power,” Webster said. “We have a system for appealing unconstitutional laws, and if there’s a law that’s unconstitutional, it has to go through the court system to be deemed so. I feel like giving that authority to local law enforcement puts an additional burden on them and frankly violates the Constitution.”
The Second Amendment sanctuary movement — which seeks to stop new gun laws — is led locally by Byron resident Anthony Tolbert, who serves as chairman of the Shiawassee County chapter of Michigan for 2A Sanctuary Counties, a Facebook group.
Tolbert said the formation of the group, as well as the push for Shiawassee County to become a Second Amendment sanctuary, was sparked by actions to limit Second Amendment rights in Virginia.
In April, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam approved a “red flag” law that allows law enforcement to temporarily seize firearms from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others. As the legislation worked its way toward passage, a widespread pro-gun movement ignited throughout the state and subsequently the nation, as various localities made vows not to enforce what some officials in those areas perceived to be “unconstitutional” gun laws.
Tolbert initially approached the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners with the resolution to become a sanctuary county in January. To date, he has collected more than 700 signatures from county residents in support of the resolution, he said.
“While our liberal and progressive friends in this county assure us that our Second Amendment rights are not going anywhere, we can simply point to their mainstream politics to know this is simply not true if they were to get their wish,” Tolbert said during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting. “Our current governor and attorney general, as well as the (democratic) party’s presidential candidates have called for things such as red flag laws, common sense gun laws, bans and outright confiscations. It is our intent to send a message to Lansing and anywhere else that may look to infringe on our God-given, constitutionally protected rights.”
Commissioner Dan McMaster, R-District 2, spoke in support of the sanctuary resolution Wednesday, noting he’s received several emails and phone calls from residents regarding the proposal since the topic was first discussed earlier this year. Further action on the resolution was delayed for several months due to COVID-19, he added.
“I know my truth,” McMaster said, “and some of my constituents may disagree with this and that’s their right, but by far the majority of the constituents in my district and this county support this (resolution). In my almost four years of public service, this will probably be the vote that I will be the most proud of, (the vote) I will remember the most.”
Board Chairman Jeremy Root, R-District 5, also expressed support for Shiawassee County becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary, citing the 45 counties in Michigan that have already approved resolutions.
“I don’t think we’re out in left field, I don’t think we’re radical, I mean, that’s more than half the state,” Root said.
“I think the freedom to bear arms is one of the most important rights that’s granted to us,” Root continued. “This simply just reaffirms that we trust in our sheriff, we trust in our prosecutor that they make sound discretion and that they enforce constitutional laws and will not enforce anything unconstitutional on any of our residents.”
Webster said if the resolution simply stated the board supports the Second Amendment, she could support it.
“When it says that we give discretion to the sheriff and the prosecutor to, and it’s worded differently in this new draft, but the intent, as Chairman Root just stated, is that they could use their discretion to not enforce laws that they believe are (unconstitutional), that’s where I feel this document violates the Constitution,” Webster said. “If a law is unconstitutional, it has to be taken in litigation to the courts and appealed through the courts and determined by the Supreme Court whether or not it is a constitutional law.”