Gun sanctuary debate rages in Berrien County

Published: Feb. 13, 2020 at 5:01 PM EST
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Those who feel their right to keep and bear arms is under attack tried to twist some arms politically in Berrien County Thursday, asking that the county be declared a Second Amendment sanctuary.

That’s apparently a take-off on "sanctuary" as it now applies to the world of immigration.

The Second Amendment version would make Berrien County a place where residents are symbolically safe from the imposition of additional gun control laws.

“The people who say our gun rights aren't under attack, they may not be in Berrien County yet this minute, but our own governor, look it, she said that she's for red flag laws, and you say they're not under attack? You're not looking, I’m sorry,” one Second Amendment supporter said amid applause from the crowd.

The debate took place before a full house in the meeting room of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. The crowd seemed to be divided half and half.

“When I hear people say that we won't tolerate red flag laws and so on, and so on,” said Bruce Blehart, of Three Oaks Township. “Then I have to ask myself, the Trump administration has already said that bump stocks, through the regulatory process, are not going to be allowed; are we going to say well, no, no,no, I want my bump stock, I want my machine gun? And where does it escalate to?”

One speaker described the sanctuary designation as symbolic at best and divisive at worst.

The original sanctuary resolution would have given the sheriff and prosecutor the discretion to “not enforce” firearms laws that were unconstitutional.

“I don't believe this county has the ability or the right to say they're going to pick and choose what laws they will or will not support,” Josh Schnadle, of Shoreham, told the crowd.

The debate ended with the commissioners unanimously passing a watered-down resolution that did not include sanctuary status. While it did provide support for the Second Amendment, it also supported the entire Bill of Rights.

Catherine Doll of Sawyer said she was happy with the outcome.

“People can have their guns, that's fine," she said. "But to overemphasize it, to be uncompromising in any kinds of changes in the law, I think that's what frightens us.

Richard Wonacott, of Buchanan, also supported the resolution in its final form.

“Unfortunately we have legislators that are not adhering to the Constitution, so this resolution sends a very clear message to our legislators that we the people will not tolerate our constitutional rights being trampled on and nullified,” he said.

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