County board tables 2nd Amendment sanctuary resolution.

January 23, 2020

County Commissioner Andrew Sebolt

County board tables 2nd Amendment sanctuary resolution.


By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — A resolution to declare Oceana County a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County” to defend gun ownership rights was tabled by the Oceana County Board of Commissioners Thursday, Jan. 23, so the language can be “tweaked.”

The local resolution comes on the heels of the Virginia Senate approving legislation Wednesday that would allow authorities to take guns away from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

Virginia has been in the national spotlight as it moves closer to joining a growing number of states enacting “red flag” gun laws.

Oceana County Commissioner Andrew Sebolt, who introduced the proposed resolution, said it is part of a state-wide effort to protect Second Amendment rights of the US Constitution.

Use of the word “person” in one section of the resolution drew some concern. The proclaimation states: “Whereas, Article 1, Section 6, of the Michigan Constitution (1963) provides that ‘Every person has a right to keep and bear arms for the defense of himself and the state.'”

Hugh Conley of Newfield Township addresses the county board.

Commissioner Larry Byl said he is a gun owner, but he’s “bothered” by the phrase “every person,” citing age, criminal record and mental illness as reasons for concern.

“(Age) 18 is when you attain “personhood,” said Sebolt. “Felons are an exception in the constitution.”

Oceana County Board of Commissioners Chairman Denny Powers, who also said he is a gun owner, stated, “I don’t understand the ramifications of the sanctuary and think we should table this.”

Powers said the resolution will go back to the board’s law enforcement committee for further review. “We need to do our due diligence with our court system and sheriff,” he said.

Sebolt and Robert Walker are the two commissioners on the law enforcement committee, and they will review the resolution before bringing it to the commissioners’ table for a vote at the next board meeting.

Mike Cook addresses the commissioners.

“About a month ago, a group started in Michigan to address more and more gun control restrictions,” Sebolt said.

He urged the board to “step forward” along with other Michigan counties. “Eighty three counties coming together has a lot of power.”

Sebolt said it’s the county’s message to the state to “keep your hands off the Second Amendment.” Although it may send a powerful message, the sanctuary resolution has no legal value.

“Does this hold any power of teeth in the legal sense? No,” he said.

“All 83 sheriffs are talking about this proposal,” said Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast. “There is a lot of different thought on this. I am a constitutional sheriff and have taken an oath to uphold the constitution — all of it. I have taken an oath to uphold the Second Amendment, and I will do that.

Rebecca Wentzloff addresses to the county board.

“I appreciate the support from the public every day. People who have concealed weapons permits are good people. They hold their rights dear and uphold the law. After you get that permit, we expect you to carry. I know the state police feel the same way. I have no intent of taking anyone’s guns.

“The sheriff’s department is not going to be a part of taking guns unconstitutionally” regardless of whether the resolution passes or not. “There are not going to be sheriff’s deputies taking your guns.”

Commissioner Martha Meyette said that guns are used in the US an estimated 3-6 times more for self defense than in the commission of a crime.

“This protects the rights of everybody — all 24,000 people (who live in Oceana County),” said Sebolt.

It was standing room only in the county board room Thursday, Jan. 23

Commissioner Dean Gustafson, a former member of the military, expressed some concern about the resolution. “I have no desire to create controversy for the sake of controversy. What purpose does it serve? It could cause unnecessary controversy. I don’t think I can support this board getting involved in this debate. Should we be involved in this?”

Walker, a long-time law enforcement officer, said the resolution needs some “minor tweaking. If we’re going to do it, let’s get it right.”

Commissioner Larry Brown said he supports the Second Amendment and is a gun owner. “I will support this,” he said.

Hugh Conley of Newfield Township addressed the board, stating that the word “person” means “responsible adult citizens.” Conley said the Second Amendment is “being chipped away. We need to put our foot down and show where we stand.”

“Atrocities have happened in gun-free zones,” Conley said. “People haven’t bothered me at my house, because they know it’s not a good thing to do.”

Mike Cook of Golden Township said a “red-flag” gun bill in the state legislature aimed at suicide prevention is useless.

“Less than 10 percent of the weapons used are owned by the one committing suicide,” Cook said. His son, who owned several guns, committed suicide by hanging, he said. “This resolution is to protect us from these types of bills.”

People from other countries throughout history have been “rounded up and exterminated,” because they didn’t have guns to protect themselves. “It’s government tyranny,” he said.

“As a former teacher, gun-free zones make you more vulnerable,” said Lori Green. “Taking our guns away is not going to make us safer.”

Mears resident Jake Whelpley shared the story of lawfully shooting coyotes on his property and a neighbor wrongfully calling the police.

“Pretty soon a big blue car was in my driveway,” Whelpley said. He said the police told him that the person told the officers that he was “waving a gun around and acting crazy. They could have taken all my guns, because he said I was acting like a crazy guy.”

“The ‘red flag’ laws are not the issue — it’s the people who are voting for them,” said Walker.

“You’ve been loud and clear,” Byl told the audience. “We will make some minor tweaks and then vote on it.”

The next county board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 13, at 10 a.m.

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