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After sanctuary votes, Timberjay reports on Ely 2nd Amendment meeting

Handguns sitting on a table
Emily Fennick / EyeEm
Getty Images/EyeEm
Minnesota county boards are passing Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions in response to gun control legislation.

Crow Wing and Itasca counties joined over a dozen Minn. counties passing Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions, and an Ely town hall promises to discuss the matter and other legislative topics.

A town hall expected to take place Saturday, March 4, in Ely on the Second Amendment appears to be the latest effort to encourage action against pending gun control bills in the Minnesota Legislature.

New legislators Rep. Roger Skraba, R-Ely, as well as Sen. Nathan Wesenberg, R-Little Falls, announced they would host a Second Amendment town hall meeting at the Ely Senior Center. An advertisement for the meeting in the Timberjay was paid for by the Eighth Congressional District Republican Party.

In a story in the Timberjay, Marshall Helmberger — publisher/editor of the newspaper in Tower, Cook and Ely — spoke with retired sociology professor Leah Rogne about the upcoming meeting. Helmberger discussed his story during Friday's Border News Roundup on the KAXE/KBXE Morning Show with Heidi Holtan.

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Rogne told Helmberger the timing of the Ely gathering, alongside county boards in the state passing resolutions in opposition to future gun control laws, appears to be part of a coordinated campaign of scare tactics designed to motivate conservative voters.

Some of the legislation under consideration by the DFL-led Legislature, the Associated Press reported in February, “would expand background check requirements for firearm sales and other transfers, and allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from people in crisis under what are commonly known as red flag laws or extreme risk protection orders.”

"We've had folks calling us actually and saying, 'What's going to happen here,' and letting us know ... of their concerns," Helmberger said. "And they see the timing of this meeting, you know, which coincides with the actions in Itasca County and Crow Wing County as being very much connected."

Helmberger said nearly a dozen Minnesota counties have already aligned themselves with a movement against the legislation, including Itasca and Crow Wing counties, both of which passed so-called "Second Amendment dedicated" resolutions in recent weeks.

"The good thing is here, I think, because this has been fairly well publicized, my guess is they'll get a fairly wide diversity of viewpoints in the audience."
Marshall Helmberger, Timberjay

The resolutions, which declare the counties' intent to oppose any new laws that would unconstitutionally restrict the rights of residents to keep and bear arms, featured identical language. Both were added to the agenda during the commissioners' meetings, rather than included in agendas published beforehand.

According to the Grand Rapids Herald Review, the Second Amendment sanctuary resolution has no legal standing but offers residents an explicit commitment to keep and bear arms.

Residents in favor of the resolution appeared to be aware it would be discussed by commissioners and were present at the Feb. 21 meeting. Yet, there was no public disclosure of the board's intent to discuss the matter ahead of time, which limited the opportunity for those with different opinions to weigh in, Helmberger noted.

Since the Itasca resolution, those opposed have raised concerns about transparency surrounding the action. Earlier this week, the Itasca County Boardroom in Grand Rapids was filled again with people questioning the board's actions.

"There was no one to speak against it because folks didn't know about it," Helmberger said. "But this week, they certainly did hear from county residents who were opposed."

Helmberger said awareness of the Ely meeting will likely mean greater attendance from those on all sides of the issue.

"The good thing is here, I think, because this has been fairly well publicized, my guess is they'll get a fairly wide diversity of viewpoints in the audience," he said. "Could be a constructive town hall in the end."

Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.