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Becker County gives thumbs up to Second Amendment resolution

The decision in support of gun ownership was made before a standing-room only crowd in the commissioners’ room at the courthouse.

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A pickup truck parked outside the Becker County Courthouse on Tuesday. (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)
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Becker County is now a ‘Dedicated Second Amendment County.’

The County Board voted unanimously to approve the resolution Tuesday, which affirms the rights under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment for county residents to own guns.

The decision was made before a standing-room only crowd in the commissioners’ room at the courthouse. Asked by a commissioner for an unofficial show of hands before the board vote, the vast majority in the audience supported the resolution.

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No one raised their hand in opposition, although several spoke at the meeting via remote technology: Terry Kalil spoke on behalf of the League of Women Voters about the process of how the resolution came to a vote, citing the apparent lack of transparency.

“Commissioner (Ben) Grimsley kindly sent out a notification to some people,” she said, otherwise many would not have known it was coming up for a vote. The board meeting informational packet came out Saturday, she said, “the same date as the mass shooting at FedEx (in Indianapolis). Since then, there have been two others. Is this the time to act on this resolution? I ask for no action today, I ask that you hold a public hearing and open it up to the light of day.”

“Our federal government is backing rioters and calls to defund the police -- I think this is a good time to do this,” said Commissioner Richard Vareberg.

Commissioner John Okeson said he had received a lot of calls about the resolution, and because it came up on short notice, he had requests from both sides to table it to allow more people to weigh in on the issue. Both he and Commissioner Barry Nelson agreed the proposal was well written and well vetted.

Commissioner Larry Knutson said he had about 90 people email him about the resolution, more than any other issue in his time on the board, and there didn’t seem to be a problem with people not knowing it was on the board meeting agenda for Tuesday.

He said it was vetted by the sheriff’s office, county attorney’s office and sheriff’s committee, and moved to approve it.

Grimsley agreed that the issue was clearly on the public radar. “I’ve never stopped receiving comments on this issue since the article came out on Feb. 3,” he said. He was referring to a Detroit Lakes Tribune story in which Grimsley said he would like County Administrator Mike Brethorst to work on a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution.

Grimsley made the request after listening to Becker County resident Joseph Allen speak at the Feb. 2 county board meeting.

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“There’s way too much rhetoric coming out of Washington or St. Paul every time you turn on the TV or Internet, and a lot of people are scared that the average American citizen is going to be made a felon just because they own a weapon,” Allen told commissioners on Feb. 2.

On Tuesday, Allen spoke again at the County Board meeting.

“I didn’t mean to stir up a bee’s nest (last time),” he said. “But things that are worth having are worth fighting for.”

Rick Anderson, chair of the Becker County Republicans, spoke at the meeting and urged commissioners to support the resolution.

“We are strong advocates of this resolution and we have a pretty significant membership -- a lot of hunters, a lot of gun owners,” he said. “They strongly believe that the Second Amendment gives people the right to protect themselves against the criminal elements.”

The 10-paragraph resolution states, among other things, that “the Becker County commissioners wish to to express opposition to any proposed legislation that would restrict the constitutional rights of the citizens of Becker County to keep and bear arms.”

Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander said in an interview after the vote that he supports the resolution and was happy to see it pass, but if the vote had gone the other way, his office would have carried on as usual.

“The Second Amendment already grants law abiding citizens the right to keep and bear arms,” Glander said. “Whether this resolution passed or not, I took an oath to uphold the constitution, as did my deputies. The County Board has shown its support of the Second Amendment, the entire Constitution, and the law-abiding citizens of Becker County.”

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Protect Minnesota, an independent statewide group that says it is not against guns, it’s against gun violence, said in a statement that: “There’s no question that counties choosing to illegally nullify state and federal gun regulations will make Minnesota less safe. The data is clear: in so-called ‘sanctuary counties,’ firearm suicide rates are higher than average. In a state that experienced hundreds of firearm suicides last year, implementing policies that would increase this number is unacceptable and displays a disregard for human life.”

The Gun Owners Caucus, which advocates for gun owners at the Minnesota Capitol, responded to an email, but did not provide a statement as 5 p.m. Tuesday. On its website, it lists these Minnesota counties as having passed a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution:

  • Clearwater
  • Faribault
  • Kanabec
  • Marshall
  • Red Lake
  • Roseau
  • Todd
  • Wadena
  • Wright

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Most people left the courthouse happy after a resolution passed Tuesday to make Becker County a Dedicated Second Amendment County. (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)

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