More than 80 Rusk County residents attended the January county board meeting, held Tuesday, Jan. 28, to discuss a resolution for Rusk County to become a second amendment sanctuary county.
The resolution acknowledges the right of the people to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the second amendment in the United States Constitution and the Wisconsin State Constitution. The resolution also recognizes the county derives an economic benefit from safe forms of firearms recreation, hunting and shooting in the county.
The resolution formally states Rusk County opposes 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 legislation authority.
Many in the audience, some military veterans, spoke regarding the importance of protecting the second amendment of the United States Constitution and how recent legislation could affect those rights.
Following a growing movement to introduce stricter gun laws into state legislation, many local communities across the country are approving resolutions and laws for protecting their communities’ second amendment right to bear arms.
Second amendment sanctuary counties serve to protect the second amendment by prohibiting the enforcement of unconstitutional gun control laws. As some states, like Virginia, sign into law strict gun control measures, a second amendment sanctuary county can protect itself from unconstitutional firearm laws and give local law enforcement authority to choose not to enforce those laws.
Some of the strict gun laws include barring individuals with mental illness from purchasing or legally acquiring a firearm, universal background checks, common sense laws which ban high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, to name a few.
Some states are considering a red flag law which could allow a judge to temporarily remove weapons from the home of an individual considered a risk to himself or others. Proponents of less strict gun control argue many mass shootings happen with firearms obtained illegally and strict guns laws only work to block individuals from legally protect themselves.
According to Gun Owners of America California has the strictest red flag laws of any state and has the most mass shootings of any state.
Discussion in the meeting by those against the resolution touched on how becoming a second amendment sanctuary county could result in an increased mass shooting risk. According to GOA, virtually all mass shooters are drug users; classifying mass shooters as having a mental illness is misleading and could result in red flag laws being applied to inappropriately.
To legally purchase a firearm, every person is already required to run a background check if purchasing a firearm from a federally licensed dealer but not a private firearm dealer such as from a flea market, sell between individuals, family members or at a gun show. A universal background check would require most private firearm purchases to run through the same background check requirements.
Many also spoke during the meeting regarding the importance of gun control and universal background checks.
First to speak was Nancy Kraft, of Sheldon, who spoke of her grandson who at 14 took his own life with a firearm. Kraft said the resolution doesn’t make sense in light of mass shootings, bulletproof backpacks and the need for excess safety measures at school.
Bob Lorkowski, of Bruce, said as a National Rifle Association member since he was 10 years old, was in support of the resolution. Lorkowski spoke of gun safety education and told those in attendance that many of the shooters at schools are on drugs and frequently play violent video games. Lorkowski said he wished the Sheriff’s Department would deputize more Rusk County citizens.
Linda Detro urged county supervisors to consider common sense rules and to act and think thoughtfully by voting against the resolution.
State Representative and Glen Flora resident Jim Edming spoke on behalf of being a lifelong member of the NRA and encouraged county supervisors to approve the resolution. Edming said considering the demographics of the area, his office has been contacted by a large number of area residents on this subject and 82 percent of individuals in the area oppose restricting gun rights. Edming said 93 percent of individuals oppose universal background checks because gun owners already have to go through background checks before purchasing a gun.
In Rusk County becoming a second amendment sanctuary county and protecting constitutional rights, Edming said, “we can’t change and don’t want to change.”
Jim Kurz told the supervisors “we’re not in the same place when the Constitution was drew up.” Kurz urged supervisors to consider how more powerful firearms have become since the Constitution was signed and that the original signers could not have known firearms would be 10,000 times more dangerous.
Jim Wheeler called the second amendment sanctuary county resolution a “bonehead resolution” and told supervisors they would be acting in bad faith a resolution that “circumvents the law of the land.”
Rusk County resident Tim Smith shared his experience in traveling overseas and how gun rights are greatly different in other countries. “Overseas, I loose my rights quickly,” said Smith. In the Ukraine, the police confiscated guns and allowed snipers to shoot unarmed citizens from rooftops; “this happens all over,” said Smith.
“There is a danger in what a government or president can do and the sheriff needs to be the one to answer. We need to be a sanctuary for the people,” said Smith.
Becoming a gun-free zone is a bad idea according to Ron Slodowski, who is in support of the resolution for the county to become a second amendment sanctuary. Everyone should be able to protect themselves said Slodowski.
Joe Baye, of Ladysmith, is a former NRA instructor and taught gun safety in the Ladysmith schools for 40 years. Baye told the supervisors he is in favor of common sense gun laws and ability of those with mental illness to purchase firearms. Baye said the county should legally and ethically support state laws that provide safety for its citizens.
According to David Cooley, of Ladysmith, firearm tragedies are caused by the person behind the firearm and not the firearm itself. Speaking of how gangs and criminals acquire firearms illegally, Cooley said, “gangs are going to find a way to hurt someone”
John Vacho, of Ladysmith, is a lifetime NRA member and a retired Army veteran. Vacho asked everyone in attendance, “can you tell me what an assault weapon is?” Vacho said the term assault weapon is too broad and too difficult to define as any item could be used to hurt someone.
According to Vacho bayonets are considered assault weapons and added “do you see people bayoneting anyone?”
Vacho urged county supervisors to make the resolution a county ordinance. A supporter of gun safety and education, Vacho asked everyone to start with considering the impact violent movies and video games have on youth and individuals before guns.
Chrysa Ostenso, of Ladysmith, is a member of the Rusk County democrat party and told everyone in attendance that the “Wisconsin democrat party does not want to take away guns.” She urged the county to come together on the issue of gun control to work together.
Calling the resolution inflammatory and dangerous, Ostenso said, “the resolution promotes lawlessness and that laws mean nothing.”
Chair Republican for the republican party in Rusk County, Travis Ewer urged supervisors to make Rusk County a sanctuary county and reiterated that it is the person and not then firearm that harms others. Ewer said the republican party fully supports the resolution.
Rusk County Corporation Counsel Rich Summerfield told those in attendance that the resolution is non-binding and is only a recommendation to the State. Summerfield explained, “the sheriff is elected and allowed to make his own decisions.” Making the county a second amendment sanctuary county means, according to Summerfield, that we “can’t be certain what it means for the county.”
County supervisor Randy Tatur acknowledged taking an oath to uphold the constitution however said he was uncomfortable passing the resolution without further discussion and conversation. Tatur asked those in attendance, “what would the general population say? We don’t know.”
Seeking to weigh responsibilities and possible tragedies, county supervisor Phil Schneider heavily told those in the room, “picking up someone whose been shot and watching them die sis something I never want to do again.”
Board chairman Dave Willingham said that while he took an oath to protect our rights, he doesn’t “believe as a member that I can make a decision for the county to not obey the law. The county board doesn’t have the right to encourage Rusk County to not obey the law.”
County supervisor Bob Stout believes individuals should follow laws to avoid turning the county into a “militant county” or the people having it’s own army.
County supervisor Bill McBain said it is a tough decision but he believes he can’t deny his son’s sacrifices as a veteran. McBain supported the resolution on those grounds.
The approved resolution was amended by removing nine lines as recommended by county supervisor Lisa Dobrowolski.
After almost two hours of discussion of the resolution, county supervisors approved amending the resolution by striking three points of the resolution. The amended resolution removes the following three points of resolution:
Be it further resolved, the People of Rusk County, Wisconsin hereby declare it to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.
Be it further resolved, the People of Rusk 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 Rusk County Board will not appropriate any funds for any enforcement of unconstitutional laws against the People of Rusk County, Wisconsin.
The Ladysmith News reached out to Rusk County Attorney Rich Summerfield and Rusk County County Administrator Andy Albarado seeking to clarify the significance of the lines removed but did not receive a reply.
Also discussed in the January county board meeting were department reports by Jeremy Koslowski, Nich Stadnyk and Judy Srp.
Also unanimously approved were resolutions to for the sale of $3,955,000 in general obligation promissory notes and to add $45,000 to the county parks and recreation 2020 budget.
The next county board of supervisors meeting will be held 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 25.