Grand Traverse County Commissioners pass resolution on rights of gun owners

Mar 4, 2020

Grand Traverse County has joined a growing list of Michigan counties declaring support for the second amendment with a resolution passed by county officials.

County commissioners voted Wednesday to declare their support for the rights of gun owners. That means the county pledges to not provide any money or resources to “restrict the second amendment rights of the citizens of Grand Traverse County to keep and bear arms.”

 

Randy Bishop speaks to the Grand Traverse Board of Commissioners about a resolution on the second amendment.
Credit Aaron Selbig / Interlochen Public Radio

Randy Bishop is a radio host from Antrim County known on the air as “Trucker Randy.” He has spearheaded a Facebook effort to gather support for sanctuary county resolutions, which he calls “symbolic,” and is pressing more Michigan counties to adopt them.

Bishop says the idea originated with so-called “red flag” laws that have been passed in a few states. The laws allow authorities to remove firearms from people who have been deemed a danger to themselves or others. Bishop considers red flag laws a slippery slope toward further gun restrictions, and he’s concerned that Democrats in Michigan want to enact them here.

“It’s only a matter of them taking back control of the House and the Senate with this governor and we’ll have red flag laws here in Michigan,” said Bishop.

Dozens of people testified before the Grand Traverse Board of Commissioners Wednesday, including a group of men wearing T-shirts with the logo for Proud Boys, a right wing group that came to prominence at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. The group is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Wednesday morning’s testimony frequently turned into a debate over the second amendment itself, with some arguing for the necessity of guns for hunting and self-defense, and others arguing that the frequency of mass shootings and the need for public safety is more important than individual gun rights.

Brenda Rusch called the debate a waste of time.

“Do the work you were elected to do,” Rusch told the commissioners. “You are out of the scope of your jurisdiction with these vacuous resolutions.”

Rusch said county residents would be better served if commissioners were focused instead on preparing for the spread of the coronavirus.

Gretchen Iorio said the board of commissioners has made a habit of working outside of its authority. She cited recent resolutions supporting a citizenship question for the U.S. Census and a tunnel to house the Line Five oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

“It may well prove that county residents prefer that the board of commissioners time and the county’s tax dollars be spent on issues that the board can do something about rather than raising the ire of the residents over a nonsensical resolution,” said Iorio.

 

The crowd at Wednesday's county commission meeting.
Credit Aaron Selbig / Interlochen Public Radio

The resolution passed by a vote of 4 to 2, with Democrat Bryce Hundley and Republican Addison “Sonny” Wheelock Jr. voting against it. Commissioner Betsy Coffia did not attend the meeting.

Wheelock said he is a gun owner and supports the second amendment but could not vote for the resolution because the county has no power to enforce it.

“I am not going to support a resolution that restricts our sheriff's department and our prosecutor's office from enforcing the law,” said Wheelock.

Wheelock also said the county board of commissioners spends too much of its time on “symbolic political statements.”

Grand Traverse is the latest Michigan county to pass some sort of resolution affirming second amendment rights. Twenty-eight other counties have taken up the issue, including Kalkaska and Charlevoix counties.

The language of Grand Traverse County’s resolution is similar to those passed in dozens of counties across the country.

The website www.sanctuarycounties.com tracks a national effort to pass similar language at the county level. It says more than 700 similar resolutions have passed in 37 states.

Also at its Wednesday meeting, the board of commissioners approved $20,000 to purchase a new X-ray machine for security at the courthouse. The machine is made by Voti, which advertises its ability to detect weapons like knives and guns.