The Oneida County Board’s public safety committee revisited a resolution on Thursday, Feb. 20, declaring the county’s support for Second Amendment rights with the intent to bring it to the full county board.
In January, the committee approved a motion directing Corporation Counsel to draft a resolution for the committee to review as well as a motion directing Corporation Counsel to collect similar resolutions from other counties in Wisconsin which have attempted to pass resolutions related to the Second Amendment.
The committee reviewed several examples of Second Amendment resolutions from Brown, Manitowoc, Marinette, Florence, and Vilas County.
“... Personally, and the one from Vilas County is very simple, very straightforward, except it’s missing two things in my opinion,” committee chair Mike Timmons said.
One of those things, Timmons said, was referenced in the resolution drafted in Marinette County where it states the board of supervisors “affirms its support of the Sheriff to exercise sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law.”
“The other thing I believe that should be on any one of these that’s not is we’d encourage the prosecutors and judges to enforce the existing rules or laws,” Timmons said.
Committee member Russ Fisher said he felt the resolution should include language about funding.
Timmons replied funding came up in a conversation with Oneida County Sheriff Grady Hartman and that money appropriated to the sheriff was spent at the sheriff office’s discretion.
“Is it in your opinion that this is ready to send?” committee member Mitchell Ives said.
“Who is sponsoring this, rather, who wanted this?” committee member Billy Fried asked.
Timmons said one of his constituents had brought it to his attention and he brought it to the public safety meeting for their consideration.
“Since then, I know my phone has lit up and my emails have gotten more and more, and I’ve even seen signage sitting in the snowbanks,” Timmons said.
Fisher and Ives said they both had received correspondence regarding Oneida County declaring its support for Second Amendment rights.
“If this passes, how does it change the way we’ve been operating prior to it?” Fried asked.
Timmons said it was making a statement.
While Fried said he understood, he also brought up the other types of requests the county received.
“At the end of the day, ideally the sheriff is going to enforce the laws and the Constitution. I expect that,” Fried continued. “I’m indifferent, so I’m not going to make a big to-do either way.”
“The way it was put to me, we do it for land and water, we do it for ADRC and all those types of things, we should do it for the Second Amendment,” Timmons said.
Should the resolution pass, Timmons said it would be forwarded to the state.
Not up to the board
Oneida County Corporation Counsel Brian Desmond clarified that Timmons wanted language about supporting the sheriff to “exercise sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law.”
Desmond added it posed some legal questions, namely in who determines what is, and is not, unconstitutional.
“It’s really not a matter of the county board, the sheriff, or myself, to determine really what’s an unconstitutional firearms law,” Desmond said. “It’s just a legal statement. I have no personal opinion on this, it’s just, who gets to determine what’s unconstitutional?”
Hartman said while the sheriff’s office had those debates on a “daily basis”, the sheriff’s office was “ always trying to fall on the Constitution’s side.”
“We’re obviously taking people’s rights at times, we’re seizing them personally, that’s a seizure,” Hartman said. “We are interpreting that regularly, on about every call we’re on.”
“That’s in instances where the law’s been developed in regard to search and seizure. There’s case law out there,” Desmond said. “I’m not quibbling with you guys as to what you do, I’m just saying that’s an argument from a lawyer’s perspective.”
Fried made a motion for the resolution to go to the county board, upon Corporation Counsel’s review of the added verbiage following the format of Vilas County’s resolution.
The motion passed unanimously.
The resolution would follow the format of Vilas County’s resolution supporting Second Amendment rights and include the added language of supporting the county sheriff in using “sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law and encouraging prosecutors and judges to enforce existing rules and laws.
Timmons said the resolution was symbolic and made a statement as to the county’s support of Second Amendment rights.
Bringing it to the board
According to Desmond, in order for the resolution to make it onto the March 17 county board meeting, it would have to be into the county clerk’s office by 9 a.m. on March 12.
The committee also has the option of bringing it to the county board in April following its next meeting in March.
Typically, the resolution would return to the committee at its next meeting for approval and signing before going to the full board.
However, due to time constraints, Desmond stated Timmons could sign and bring the resolution to the board as an individual supervisor with someone else seconding it on the county board floor.
“I can write it that way, too,” Desmond said.
“Our committee would act, still could have the discussion to formalize, but it would be too late, but I would bring it forward,” Timmons said.
Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]