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Livingston County board passes gun rights "Sanctuary county" policy

A crowded room full of happy people clapping and smiling in reaction
Tyler Scott
Michigan Radio
The crowd cheered and applauded when the "second amendment sanctuary county" resolution officially passed on a 6-0 vote

Add another “second amendment sanctuary county” to the fast-growing list.

The Livingston County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution Monday night via a 6-0 vote (with two members absent) after being asked to signify support for gun rights. The resolution isn’t legally binding. Upon its passage, the crowd, overflowing out of council chambers and into the hallway, burst into cheers.

“I don’t particularly like the word sanctuary, but I do want to send a strong message to Lansing, to Washington, that our country is for the second amendment,” said Livingston County district four Commissioner Douglas Helzerman. “We’re not going to stand still.”

The straightforward resolution simply reiterates the Commission’s support for constitutional rights, and asks state and federal government officials to reject “any provision, law, or regulation that may infringe… the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.”

27 other Michigan counties have passed similar resolutions in the past two months, according to local news reports chronicled at sanctuarycounties.com. Though some resolutions passed by counties do not contain the word “sanctuary” and a few reaffirm general support for the entire U.S. Constitution.

Rick Knieper says around Christmas, in response to proposed gun control legislation in Virginia, he became active in a Facebook group called “Michigan for 2A Sanctuary Counties.” Now the Livingston County Chairman for the movement, Knieper says he worked closely with Livingston County district six commissioner Roger Bezotte to bring a resolution to the board that reiterated support for gun rights.

Rick Knieper smiling in front of a wall
Rick Knieper said he now wants to help activists pass "sanctuary county" resolutions in other Michigan counties

“We’re asking that they stand up and honor their oath of office and stand by the second amendment,” Knieper said.

The Facebook group has more than 95,000 members, and there are separate local groups for some counties.

During the public comment period of the meeting most people addressed the commission voiced support for the resolution. Several people expressed disdain for Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stated support for a so-called “red flag” law, and fear that gun rights are being infringed.

Hamburg township resident Dave Pike addressed the commission and referenced several gun control proposals in the state legislature, none of which have passed through a legislative committee, and some dating back nearly a year.

“The point is, there is an attack on our second amendment,” Pike said. “Put us on record to say we will ask you not to infringe on our rights anymore.”

Asked for comment, Livingston County Sheriff Michael Murphy said he vowed to uphold the constitution of the U.S. and all the amendments.

“Although I’m a huge second amendment guy, I see the resolution as nothing other than symbolic quite frankly,” Murphy said. “The County Board of Commissioners can’t tell me what laws to enforce or not, and can’t tell the prosecutor what laws to enforce or not.”

Only a few members of the public spoke in opposition to the resolution at the commission meeting.

Local political candidates supporting the resolution also addressed the commission. Mike Detmer, a Republican primary candidate for Michigan’s 8th Congressional district and a resident of Howell, said the resolution, which doesn’t carry the force of law, stands as a symbolic victory in refutation of gun control proposals. Detmer worked in the mortgage industry before switching to a job with an auto company.  

“The point of this is the voice of the people, so for our state legislators and our Governor to understand, that as more and more counties come online as sanctuary counties… we’re going to push back towards any infringements on the second amendment,” Detmer said.

Detmer said he started attending meetings to support the sanctuary county movement early on. Some supporters of the resolution wore all black T-shirts with “2A” screen-printed on the front in large white letters. Some wore hats supporting President Trump.

Nikki Snyder and Kristina Lyke are both Republican primary candidates for Michigan’s 8th congressional district as well, and they each addressed the board, speaking in line after Detmer. Snyder is a state Board of Education member. Lyke is a family law attorney with a private practice in Lansing.

Snyder said the resolution should pass, and she emphasized the importance of firearms safety training for children and praised an NRA training program.

“I think one of the biggest issues that we see with second amendment support is fear,” Snyder said. “We need to protect our rights first, then dispel our fear, (and) I think we can make our way back to the origins of this country.”

Lyke spoke briefly to commissioners, urging them to pass the resolution and calling the second amendment “the foundation of our constitution.”

A similar resolution stating support for gun rights was also scheduled for a vote Monday night by the Montcalm County Commission. A reporter and editor for The Daily News covering Montcalm and Ionia counties tweeted last night that the resolution failed 5-4.

The Clinton County Board of Commissioners has a resolution “affirming board’s support of constitutional rights” on its meeting schedule for Tuesday’s meeting at 9:18am.

Tyler Scott is the weekend afternoon host at Michigan Public, though you can often hear him filling in at other times during the week. Tyler started in radio at age 18, as a board operator at WMLM 1520AM in Alma, Michigan, where he later became host of The Morning Show.
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