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No vote on 2nd Amendment resolution in Crow Wing

Board Chairman Paul Koering cited a desire for the public to weigh in before returning the matter to a future meeting agenda.

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The Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse is located at 326 Laurel St., Brainerd. The Crow Wing County Board meets on the third floor. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch
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Reversing course, Crow Wing County Board Chairman Paul Koering pulled a Second Amendment-related resolution from the agenda at the board’s Tuesday, April 14, meeting.

Koering said last week he intended to make a motion to approve the resolution, which if passed would designate the county as “Second Amendment dedicated.” Three other commissioners — Steve Barrows, Bill Brekken and Doug Houge — told the Dispatch Friday they would prefer an official public comment period before consideration.

On Tuesday, Koering said he would move the matter to a later, unspecified date, when the public has the opportunity to weigh in. The board unanimously approved Tuesday’s agenda with that item removed. The public remains restricted from county board meetings during a state of emergency in response to COVID-19.

RELATED: Crowd seeks Crow Wing County support of 2nd Amendment Chairman Paul Koering set a public hearing for 6 p.m. March 19 and said he would forward the resolution at the county board's March 24 meeting.
The resolution arose from a grassroots Second Amendment movement in the county — among dozens across the state and hundreds nationwide — organized in response to gun control legislation people opposed to view as too restrictive or outright unconstitutional. In Minnesota, the target is two bills passed by the state House of Representatives — one expanding background checks to online sales and gun shows, and “red flag” legislation that would allow law enforcement officers to temporarily remove a person’s firearms if a judge determined they were a threat to themselves or others. Those measures are not expected to pass in a Republican-controlled state Senate.

Thus far, nine Minnesota counties have passed sanctuary resolutions, including nearby Wadena and Todd counties, according to a map maintained by the nonprofit advocacy group Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus. Passage of these resolutions indicate county leaders might challenge or refuse to enforce these kinds of laws, including the potential expenditure of public funds in the process.

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A March 10 Crow Wing County Board meeting was packed with about 200 people who showed up on the issue. It featured passionate testimony from dozens, mostly in favor of the resolution, during the open forum. Several pointed to what they cited as potentially dangerous implications or ineffectiveness of red flag legislation. Arguments included the idea people could lose their guns because of false claims by a vindictive ex-spouse, for example, or fears over how mental health problems may be defined and by whom.

Opponents of the resolution, meanwhile, raised questions about the county potentially dedicating public funds collected from all county residents to advance the views of one particular group. Other points included the issue falling outside the county’s purview and why this amendment would be elevated over others in the Constitution.

A day after that outpouring on March 11, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic, sparking a cascade of event cancellations, emergency declarations and dramatic changes to everyday life over the course of the following weeks. Among those cancellations was a March 19 public hearing on the Second Amendment issue.

The Cass County Board voted down a similar resolution April 7, with a majority of the board citing concerns with potential legal liability and whether costs associated with a lawsuit would be covered by the county’s insurance. In addition to those financial concerns, Cass County Administrator Josh Stevenson said another issue was the potential perception the board would be directing other elected officials, such as the county sheriff and county attorney. Stevenson emphasized repeatedly the board believed in the Second Amendment cause, but these other considerations ultimately won out.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .
Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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