Florence County declared a ‘Second Amendment sanctuary’

First county in Wisconsin to take step on gun rights

FLORENCE, Wis. — Florence County on Tuesday become the first in Wisconsin to designate itself as a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” taking a strong stance against any potential state gun control legislation.

While considered a non-binding measure, the move signals county officials may opt not to enforce any gun control laws that might manage to pass the state legislature — an unlikely prospect for now in Wisconsin, given Republicans control both the Assembly and Senate.

Yet Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ call for a special session on gun control — despite being adjourned Thursday within minutes of being gaveled to order by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald — was enough to convince a number of Florence County residents such a public declaration was needed.

Mark Kerznar, owner of Saloon No. 2 in Spread Eagle, said he approached the county about becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary after hearing Evers wanted a “red flag” law — which would gives judges the power to take weapons away from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others — and universal background checks.

“The governor is not a friend of the Second Amendment,” Kerznar said.

Gun control advocates in Madison described the bills as moderate proposals that most Wisconsin residents support.

At the Florence meeting, Kerznar’s proposal had a receptive audience of at least 75 people, plus a sympathetic board.

“We don’t need to give any more authority to Madison,” Supervisor Edwin Kelley said to open the debate Tuesday.

Not that there was much debate. All who spoke Tuesday urged the board to pass the measure, which it did unanimously to applause from those who filled the Florence County courtroom.

Sheriff Dan Miller led off the comments, declaring, “I believe in God. I believe in guns.” He said existing laws were enough to handle anyone who might commit a crime with a firearm. The sanctuary resolution spells out that the sheriff will be able to “exercise sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law.”

Aaron Volling, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3635 in Florence, said veterans fought to preserve such Constitutional rights.

“You’re right, they fought for that right,” county board Chairwoman Jeanette Bomberg responded. She observed the forefathers had great foresight in 1791 to lock in gun rights.

“I have a right to keep and bear arms,” said Supervisor Holly Wahlstrom Stratton, later adding that dictatorships start with the government confiscating guns.

While Florence County is the first in Wisconsin to declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary, about half the counties in Illinois have taken the same step. In states such as Idaho and Wyoming, all counties have adopted that status.


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