Florence County Adopts Second Amendment Sanctuary StatusIssue Date: November 21, 2019
On Tuesday, Nov. 12, Florence County made history by becoming the first Wisconsin County to adopt a resolution declaring itself a "Second Amendment Sanctuary County," and expressing opposition to any legislation "that would infringe Second Amendment Right of the people to keep and bear arms."
The action, by unanimous vote, drew a loud round of applause from the 75 persons who attended the special Florence County Board meeting following the 7 p.m. hearing on the annual budget. The only items on the agenda for that board meeting were adoption of the budget, tax levy and capital improvements plan, and adoption of Resolution 2-19-23 "for Florence County to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary County."
The resolution was introduced at the request of Mark Kerznar, owner of Saloon No. 2 in Spread Eagle, who reportedly became alarmed after hearing Gov. Tony Evers wanted a "red flag" law, which among other things would give judges the power to take weapons away from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others, and require universal background checks for gun owners and/or purchasers.
The resolution states:
"WHEREAS, the right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms for defense of Life, Liberty, and Property is regarded as an Inalienable Right by the People of Florence County, Wisconsin, and;
"WHEREAS, the People of Florence County, Wisconsin derive economic benefit from all safe forms of firearms recreation, hunting, and shooting conducted within Florence county using all types of firearms allowable under the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin, and;
"WHEREAS, Florence County Board, being elected to represent the People of Florence County and being duly sworn by their Oath of Office to uphold the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin, and;
"WHEREAS, the Wisconsin House of Representatives and the Wisconsin Senate, being elected by the People of the State of Wisconsin and being duly sworn by their Oath of Office to uphold the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin, and;
"WHEREAS, any legislation considered by the Wisconsin State Legislature that would infringe the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and would ban the possession and use of any firearms, magazines, ammunition or body armor now employed by individual citizens of Florence County for defense of Life, Liberty and Property or would require a firearms owner I.D. card or tax the possession of firearms or ammunition within Florence County, Wisconsin;
"Be it resolved the people of Florence County, Wisconsin hereby declare it to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.
"Be it further resolved the People of Florence County, Wisconsin affirms its support of the Sheriff to exercise sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law.
"Be it further resolved that the Florence County Board will not appropriate any funds for any enforcement of unconstitutional laws against the People of Florence county, Wisconsin.
"NOW, THEREFORE, IT BE AND IS HEREBY RESOLVED that the People of Florence County, Wisconsin, do hereby oppose the enactment of any legislation that would infringe upon the Right of the People to keep and bear arms and considers such laws to be unconstitutional and beyond lawful legislative authority."
After passage the resolution was signed by County Board Chair Jeanette Bomberg and County Clerk Donna Trudell.
Bomberg noted no one had spoken against the resolution, but many, including numerous members of the local VFW, had spoken in favor.
"I had chills when they were talking," said Bomberg, who has served 29 years on the board. "I probably would never shoot a gun in my life. But to have that taken away from my home, that should not be for the federal government, state government or local government to decide."
"The governor is not a friend of the Second Amendment," Kerznar said of his decision to ask County Board to support the resolution.
"We don't need to give any more authority to Madison," Supervisor Edwin Kelley said to open the debate Tuesday.
Supervisor Edwin Kelley, who has served as a supervisor since 1972, said attempts by Gov. Tony Evers to call for action on gun violence has made his constituents nervous. "That red-flag law " what benefit is that going to do anybody?" he asked. "It gives too much authority to the government. Just enforce the rules we have instead of increasing them more and more so that down the road weapons will be gone for future generations."
According to some supporters of "red flag" legislation, the proposals sponsored by Democrats are modeled on existing laws that allow firearms to be taken from people suspected of domestic violence.
Sheriff Dan Miller supported the resolution. He led off the comments, declaring, "I believe in God. I believe in guns." He said existing laws are enough to handle anyone who might commit a crime with a firearm. He noted that the sanctuary resolution spells out that the sheriff will be able to "exercise sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law."
Miller, who is serving his first term as Florence County Sheriff, formerly was a deputy in the Marinette County Sheriff's Office. He said the County Board room was filled for the discussion, which is not usually the case, and no one spoke in opposition.
Aaron Volling, commander of Florence Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3635, said veterans fought to preserve Constitutional rights.
Bomberg agreed, and observed that this nation's founders had great foresight to lock in gun rights in 1791.
"I have a right to keep and bear arms," declared Supervisor Holly Wahlstrom Stratton, who later added that dictatorships have always started with the government confiscating guns.
Passage of the anti-gun control resolution is a non-binding action, but signals state legislators that county officials may choose not to enforce any gun control laws that might manage to pass the state legislature.
Florence is the first county in Wisconsin to declare itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary County, but there are indications that other counties will follow suit. About half the counties in Illinois and all counties in Idaho, Wyoming and other states have taken similar positions.
Gov. Tony Evers' recent call for a special session of the State Legislature on "red flag" gun control proposals was gaveled down by Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
A "red flag" law could give judges the power to take weapons away from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others, and could require universal background checks for gun owners.
"The governor is not a friend of the Second Amendment," Kerznar said.
The Florence county resolution was seen as somewhat of a push-back to the red-flag legislation supported by the governor and several lawmakers. The red flag law gives power to the sheriff to confiscate a person's weapons if they're deemed dangerous.
By declaring itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary County, the Florence County Board issued notice that the citizens would follow the laws that are deemed constitutional, given and set by the county.
You could tell by the full county board room that the resolution had a lot of support, Sheriff Miller commented, adding that a full board room is not usually the case.
Sheriff Miller added that the resolution doesn't mean firearms will not be taken away from convicted felons or in criminal cases, including those involving domestic violence or drugs.
Gun control advocates described the "red flag" bills as moderate proposals that most Wisconsin residents support.
Several other Wisconsin counties reportedly have already contacted Florence County officials to express interest in passing similar resolutions.
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