Monday morning, the Dubois County Commissioners declined to move forward on a resolution declaring the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
While Commissioner Nick Hostetter made a motion to adopt the resolution supplied by local 2A Sanctuary supporters, his motion died for lack of a second from Commissioners Chad Blessinger and Elmer Brames.
Second Amendment sanctuaries are counties or municipalities that have adopted laws or resolutions that oppose, prohibit, or impede the enforcement of certain gun control measures that appear to be in violation of the Second Amendment’s protection of an individual’s right to bear arms.
Discussion on the movement to declare the county a 2A Sanctuary began last year and was renewed in March. At the March meeting, Eric Jochim approached the commissioners about adopting a resolution he had drafted.
Here is a story about Mr. Jochim’s meeting with commissioners. At that meeting, Mr. Jochim told the commissioners he supported gun control measures already in place.
During Monday’s meeting, three members of the public spoke against the county adopting any ordinance or resolution making a statement regarding gun rights.
Resident Emily Klein told the commissioners that in light of recent mass shootings in Boulder, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia, in addition to the number of deaths that occur annually involving guns, they would be sending the wrong message to their constituents if they supported the sanctuary status.
“Common sense gun laws requiring a waiting period and a ban on assault-style weapons could have prevented both shootings,” she told commissioners. “Every day more than 100 Americans are shot and killed. In Indiana, on average per year, almost 1,000 people are killed by gun violence.”
“In 2017, there were 144 police officers who died in the line of duty; about a thousand active-duty military who died worldwide,” she pointed out. “Whereas there were 2,462 school-aged children who were killed by firearms. Every day when I dropped my kids off at school. I pray that they’re safe from gun violence. Specifically that prayer; is that really a prayer that a mother should have to pray for her children?”
According to Klein, in adopting a sanctuary resolution, the commissioners are stating they won’t uphold their oath to support the laws passed by state legislators.
“The majority of these resolutions are legally meaningless,” Klein said, “but they undermine the rule of law, cause confusion, foster distrust in law enforcement, and they deter people from reporting individuals who may hurt themselves or others.”
Resident Desiree Castillejos also attempted to dissuade the commissioners from adopting the resolution. Castillejos told commissioners she is a computer engineer with a master’s degree in computer science who chose to move to Jasper because she felt it was a great place to live and work. She said that after seeing the resolution was being considered, she second-guessed her feelings about the area. “I am worried. If you pass this resolution, you’re sending a message, which is what I suspect you want to do,” she said. “But what is the message really?”
She posited that it could send a different message to individuals and companies considering this area. Are we saying we want to carry our guns and we don’t want to respect the law, she asked?
“Please don’t pass this resolution,” she said in closing.
Commissioner Blessinger stated that as the resolution was written, the county would not be making a statement about not upholding the laws.
Commissioner Brames was firmly against any resolution. “We have people on both sides of this issue in our county and both of those groups need to be respected,” he said pointing out that the resolution pushes the commissioners to appear to lean a certain way.
He wondered what type of message the resolution would send to potential businesses and prospective residents if the county joined the growing number of counties that have adopted the sanctuary status. “As has been said many times, there’s really no teeth in this. There’s really no legal ramifications from it,” he added. “So why send the message?”
Mike Kendall, president of the Dubois County Democratic Party, asked how the commissioners would test the constitutionality of any gun laws they potentially could chose or not chose to support. “How do you balance an absolute Constitutional right that’s relatively undefined … versus the right to safety and public interest,” he asked. “The main problem here is that if you pass this resolution, it’s only going to have symbolic value, and to the extent that it is out there, people are going to try to enforce it.”
Blessinger stated that people could hear the county is a 2A Sanctuary and then assume what that means without ever reading the actual resolution the county adopted. He said that he’s already seen arguments about the resolution that don’t address what is actually in the resolution.
“To me, what it (resolution) really says is we’re going to support the Constitution as it is, and we have already done that when we swore to uphold it when we were sworn in,” he said.
Hostetter again stated he supported the resolution as an affirmation of the county’s support of the Constitution and particularly, the Second Amendment. “I believe it’s important to reaffirm our support for the Second Amendment because there are almost constant attacks by our federal government to derail these,” he said. “It is my hope, enough counties and cities would become sanctuaries and adopt similar measures that the message will be heard by our federal government and maybe they will quit their assault on the Second Amendment.”
Hostetter stated it was his opinion that gun control is not going to stop shootings. “It doesn’t address the broken mental health systems and it doesn’t address the underlying causes of the violence,” he said. “That is where I stand. I think it is a good idea. I want to send a message to the state and federal government that we’re a 2A Sanctuary because it is our right to protect our families.”
Blessinger reiterated that he supported what the resolution says simply based on his sworn oath to uphold the Constitution. He added that since he has made that oath and commissioners don’t have the authority to enact any laws regarding gun rights, the resolution doesn’t really do anything.
“I’ve already sworn to do this,” he said. “These are all things that I support doing. I don’t know that having a resolution does anything but divide the county.”
After Hostetter’s motion to adopt the ordinance died for lack of a second, Brames made a motion to table the resolution indefinitely unless something occurred that would predicate a need to make such a statement or there were changes on the commission. It died for lack of a second as well with Blessinger explaining he would be interested in adding it back to the agenda if someone wanted to speak to the commissioners.
“If somebody brings me different information, I may have different feelings in the future,” he said.