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WI county rejects ‘red flag’ gun laws; declares itself ‘Second Amendment sanctuary’

Wall of rifles at a gun store. (Michael Saechang/Flickr)
November 19, 2019

A rural Wisconsin county declared itself a “Second Amendment sanctuary” in a vote to send a message to politicians to “keep your hands off our guns.”

The Florence County Board voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance the day after Veterans’ Day to protect its citizens from potential unconstitutional gun laws, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

It gives Sheriff Dan Miller, who was elected last year, the ability to “exercise sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law.”

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Miller. “It sends a message that all of Wisconsin is not exactly the same. We have some different beliefs up north. We tend to be a little more conservative. We like our guns. We believe in God.”

The declaration does not mean that no firearm will be taken away. Convicted felons or individuals in criminal cases like domestic violence or drug offenses can still have their firearms legally taken.

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The declaration of a “Second Amendment sanctuary” is similar to “sanctuary cities,” which are cities that have declared they won’t obey federal law by not deporting illegal immigrants.

Florence County Supervisor Edwin Kelley, who has served on the board since 1972, said his constituents were alarmed by attempts from Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, to get a “red flag” law passed with the help of Republicans, who have mostly been opponents of such laws.

Red flag laws allow people close to gun owners, though generally vaguely defined, is usually referred to as being roommates or family members, the ability to submit claims that the otherwise lawful gun owner poses a threat to himself or others, even if there isn’t evidence.

“That red flag law — what benefit is that going to do anybody?” said Kelley. “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.”

In a statement in September, Evers belittled pro-gun rights legislators, saying they are “cowards” choosing against “common sense.”

In a joint statement in response to the governor, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said they “believe this legislation poses threats to due process and the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”

“Last year, Republicans passed $100 million in school safety grants,” they said. “We’re continuing to work on finding bipartisan solutions by focusing on improvements in our mental health care system. We hope the suicide prevention task force will provide a template for ideas that can actually earn bipartisan support and become law.”

In Washington, the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee also voted to advance bills, though unlikely to pass a Republican-controlled Senate, that would ban high-capacity magazines and implement a red flag law.