Wilkin Co. Board in stalemate over ‘Dedicated 2nd Amendment County’

The county is required to uphold a state law unless it is patently unconstitutional, such as a ban on all personal firearms in the state of Minnesota.

A resolution designating Wilkin County as a “Dedicated Second Amendment County” resulted in a tie vote, with commissioner Jonathan Green absent from the Tuesday, May 18 meeting. The county board is scheduled to vote on the resolution again at a June 8 meeting.

At the May 11 meeting, the commissioners cited concerns over the language in the resolution and agreed to revisit it. They returned Tuesday to a revised draft, written similarly to a resolution in Roseau County, Minnesota, that passed February 2020.

Wilkin County Attorney Carl Thunem said the proposed Wilkin County resolution is lawful, unless the county were to act on the intent stated in the second to last paragraph, which read, “The Wilkin County Board of Commissioners hereby expresses its intent that public funds of the county not be used to restrict the second amendment rights of the citizens of Wilkin County, or to aid federal or state agencies in the restriction of said rights.”

The county is required to uphold a state law unless it is patently unconstitutional, such as a ban on all personal firearms in the state of Minnesota, Thunem said. In all other cases, state laws are presumed constitutional. A court is the only authority that can determine whether or not a law is unconstitutional, and until that point, counties must abide by the law.

“If it’s a dubious or questionable law, I want everybody to understand we’ll be required to enforce it with all state mandates pertaining to that law until it’s found unconstitutional,” Thunem said.

Klindt offered a motion to pass the resolution including an amendment that struck the second to last paragraph.

Commissioners Dennis Larson and Eric Klindt, voted in favor of the resolution. It’s a symbolic move, they said, and passing it would show support for the constitutional rights of Wilkin County constituents. Eighteen Minnesota counties have passed similar resolutions, Daily News previously reported.

“I think there’s going to be a gesture in this country to infringe upon those rights and I want to be out in front of it,” Larson said.

Wilkin County resident and Breckenridge City Council member Rick Busko attended the meeting in support of the resolution, along with three other residents. Busko said he wants the state to hear their voices, even if the resolution is symbolic.

Commissioners Lyle Hovland and Neal Folstad voted against the resolution. Both said they are in support of the second amendment, but Folstad questioned the necessity of the resolution. Hovland said he had received comments from constituents who are opposed to the resolution.

“We’re being asked to pass a resolution that reflects the whole of Wilkin County. Not everybody feels the same here. And these people are not radical, not even anti-gun, probably,” Hovland said. “But they ask, ‘Where’s the resolution to ask local, state and federal lawmakers to find courage to have the hard debate to try to prevent the next school shooting, the next mass event related to firearms?’ … I’ll give that group a voice, and I’m going to vote ‘no’ on this resolution.”

The full county board is expected to be present at the Tuesday, June 8 meeting, at which point the commissioners will vote on the resolution again.

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