A proposed resolution to make Hillsdale County a so-called “Second Amendment sanctuary” was discussed at length by the Board of Commissioners last Tuesday, January 28th, but a vote on the matter was ultimately delayed due to concerns over lack of details and possible action at the state level.
According to the Hillsdale Daily News, the proposal was submitted by Brad Benzing, a former county commissioner and current candidate for District 4. Benzing is a longtime firearms rights advocate and member of the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners (M.C.R.G.O.).
He was present at Tuesday’s meeting to speak on the proposal, where he said he was pleased to see the commission discussing the topic. He noted that it’s not often a county commission has the opportunity to address Second Amendment issues.
Benzing urged the commissioners to adopt the resolution, which would prohibit “county resources, including employees and funds” from being “used to infringe or restrict the rights of any citizens affirmed by the Second Amendment and Article 1, Section 6, of the Michigan Constitution.”
But some commissioners were not quite ready to make that move.
Commissioner Bruce Caswell said he’s “a complete and total supporter of the Second Amendment,” but added that there are unanswered questions about what exactly defines a “sanctuary” and how that relates to the county’s offices.
Caswell said elected officials like the county sheriff, the county prosecutor, or the register of deeds are independent of the Board of Commissioners in terms of how they operate their offices, and could choose to simply ignore the proposed resolution. He included in that the idea of using money to affect policy, noting that once the board sets their budget, the designated money is free to be spent as the occupant of those offices see fit.
The commissioner also questioned whether or not such a resolution would interfere with elected officials’ requirement under the Michigan Constitution to uphold state law, or whether or not it would violate the state Constitution outright by creating a locally-required oath beyond the standard oath of office.
Adding her own concerns, Commissioner Julie Games brought up legislation working its way through the state legislature: House Resolution 219; a resolution that would make Michigan as a whole a Second Amendment sanctuary at the state level.
Games says she wants the commissioners to wait until that resolution either passes or fails before the county makes its own decision. The state resolution is currently before the House Committee on Government Organization.
Board Chair Mark Wiley says he put the item on the agenda to make the public aware of it and to hold exactly this discussion. He credited the recent gun control efforts and subsequent pro-Second Amendment protest in Virginia for raising attention to gun rights matters in recent weeks. However, while Wiley says the commission generally supports Second Amendment rights, he said they believe it would be prudent to wait out the state resolution and reconsider the matter at a later date.
Full Disclosure: Josh Colletta is the stepson of Brad Benzing.