Alger a gun sanctuary?

The Alger County Commission is considering two resolutions regarding Alger County’s protection of the Second Amendment, creating controversy over roles of local government regarding constitutional rights and whether or not local citizens support or reject additional gun control measures recently introduced into both houses of the Michigan Congress.

The pair of resolutions were introduced as part of the packet for the Monday, March 13 meeting as resolutions 2023-07 Resolution to Instruct our Representatives to Oppose All Firearms Control Legislation and 2023-08 Resolution Declaring Alger County a Constitutional Second Amendment Sanctuary County.

The first resolution relies heavily on the U.S. and Michigan constitutions, citing both document’s preambles, the U.S. Ninth Amendment of retaining rights not specifically written into the Constitution, and Michigan’s Article 1, Section 3, which talks about instructing representatives. It resolves that the Alger County Commission instructs the 102nd Michigan State Legislature to vote against all laws that would “unconstitutionally infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms”, against laws that would limit firearm modifications or ammunition types, and against Red Flag laws. “Red Flag” is a blanket term that has varied drastically state by state when talking about limiting who and how individuals could possess a firearm, how and who would make a decision on restricting firearm possession and what rights a person would have in fighting a Red Flag ruling once a decision was made.

The second resolution cites U.S. Supreme Court decisions of District of Columbia v Heller, McDonald v Chicago and United States v Miller, three cases that protected individual firearm rights in regard to the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. The promise proposed by this resolution actively challenges long-standing procedures of the county and the state by directing the Alger County Sheriff and Prosecutor to not enforce any unconstitutional laws. It also promises that the County Commission would “not authorize or appropriate funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, building, detention centers or offices” for the purposes of enforcing unconstitutional gun laws.

The commission later in the same meeting approved $10,000 for the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Task Force (UPSET) which often includes weapons charges to amplify the potential maximum sentence for those detained in busts at state and federal enforcement levels, showcasing how interwoven gun laws are in Alger County law enforcement.

“We support the Second Amendment, but there’s language in that resolution that could hang us out to dry,” Alger County Sheriff Todd Brock said. “I’m not comfortable with this in any shape or form until (Alger County Prosecutor Rob Steinhoff and I) can discuss this more.”

Steinhoff said that neither he nor Brock were notified about the resolutions until the day of the meeting, leading to a brief argument over board policy on introducing topics to the agenda between Alger County Commission Chair Esley Mattson and Commissioner Dean Seaberg. The two resolutions, as well as two other resolutions regarding “dark store” tax reform and support of Cheboygan County in their fight with the DNR over dam repair funding from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, were tabled with no extra discussion due to procedural concerns of adding resolutions to the county commission agenda. According to board policy, the Resolutions Subcommittee is to review the resolutions and then send them to other county department heads to make sure that they are achievable and legal.

Alger County Administrator Steve Webber was not at the meeting. Webber is the administrator for numerous grants that are obtained by the county, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Operation Stonegarden grants, which provides tens of thousands of dollars for law enforcement funding in the county annually.

Steinhoff mentioned during the meeting that he wrote an opinion on similar resolutions in the past from the Resolutions Subcommittee. The Munising Beacon requested the opinion by Steinhoff, but it was unclear if that opinion would be protected under attorney-client privilege. The opinion has not been released as of Thursday, March 16.

The packet for the Monday, March 20 meeting has not been released as of deadline for this week’s edition. The packets can be viewed online by going to the Alger County Commission’s meeting minutes tab on the algercounty. gov website. Public comment at the March 13 meeting was only against the resolutions, as members of the public cited the need for additional gun safety laws after the Michigan State University shooting in February and other mass shootings in 2023.

To date, seven U.P. counties have adopted Second Amendment Sanctuary County resolutions in some format, most of which were adopted in 2020. Some counties have adopted similar resolutions to the one proposed on Monday, while others have written their own resolutions. Baraga and Houghton Counties both tabled resolutions before the COVID-19 pandemic, but have not reviewed them since 2020.