Lyon Co. Board revisits 2nd amendment sanctuary discussion

MARSHALL — Lyon County commissioners all said they supported the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. But their responses were mixed over whether to declare Lyon County a “Second Amendment sanctuary.”

It was a conversation the county board had once before, in March 2020, but didn’t act on. On Tuesday, commissioners revisited the idea, and heard questions and comments from members of the public. This time, they directed Lyon County Attorney Rick Maes to draft a possible sanctuary resolution or a statement of support for the Second Amendment to bring to their next meeting for further discussion.

Commissioner Steve Ritter said he wanted to bring the topic of Second Amendment sanctuary counties back up for discussion based on feedback he received from Lyon County residents.

“I’ve had a number of people call me about the way this country is going, with the possibility of losing Second Amendment rights,” Ritter said.

One specific message that was included in the board’s agenda packet was a letter from Minneota resident Dawn Van Keulen. Van Keulen asked the commissioners and the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department to consider establishing Second Amendment sanctuary status for the county. So far, 16 Minnesota counties including Wright, McLeod and Sibley counties, have already passed Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.

“I believe this proactive and protective establishment of our Second Amendment rights makes all the sense in the world in light of the recent expansion of state government powers through the use of emergency powers and executive orders,” Van Keulen said in her letter.

“I support the Second Amendment,” said Commissioner Charlie Sanow. But at the same time, he said, he was concerned that passing a sanctuary resolution wouldn’t have an effect. The county sheriff and county attorney might not have the authority to go against executive orders that have the effect of law, he said.

Wright County’s “Second Amendment Dedicated County” resolution said the county would oppose efforts to restrict Second Amendment rights, and that the Wright County commissioners would refuse to use county resources to enforce any mandate, law or policy that infringes on the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms.

“I definitely support the Second Amendment,” said Commissioner Gary Crowley. “What I don’t understand is, what would be the advantage of us doing this?”

Commissioners Rick Anderson and Paul Graupmann said passing a sanctuary resolution could be advocacy for the county. If 80 Minnesota counties passed resolutions, state legislators would see the issue of gun rights was important to the public, Anderson said.

Ritter suggested the idea of holding a public hearing on the matter.

“We need a direction,” he said.

Ritter asked Maes what Wright County was gaining by passing the resolution.

“I don’t believe they’re gaining anything,” Maes said. Second Amendment sanctuary status would be more of a symbolic gesture. “The discussion is good,” Maes said, “But this isn’t really an issue today.”

A few members of the public were present for the board’s discussion. Commissioners took questions and some comments in support of protecting Second Amendment rights.

“The Second Amendment has been bit at for years,” said Chris Moede. He used the example of the 2018 ban on bump stocks, a device that allows semiautomatic firearms to fire more rapidly.

A regulation from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives banned bump stocks after they were used in a 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. However, there have also been disputes about the ban in federal courts around the country.

Commissioners ended the discussion by directing Maes to bring a draft of a sanctuary resolution or a statement of support for the Second Amendment to the next county board meeting.

Audience members who spoke in support of a resolution said they thought the county needed to take action on Second Amendment rights.

“I think Mr. Ritter’s comment about having a public forum is excellent,” Moede said.

Van Keulen said Minnesota has already seen unelected officials making policy decisions, like the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency adopting tougher vehicle emissions standards.

“Things are not going through the proper process,” Van Keulen said. And with President Joe Biden calling for a ban on semiautomatic weapons, protecting Second Amendment rights was a pertinent concern, she said.


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