A full house broke out in applause Tuesday as Del Norte County supervisors joined those in El Dorado and Siskiyou counties in passing a resolution to support the Second Amendment's right to bear arms.
Ten out of 11 members of the public who spoke praised the proposed resolution, which was introduced by District 1 Supervisor Roger Gitlin. Most slammed gun control legislation proposed at the federal and state levels.
"The federal government, from the top down, is trying to legislate gun control in their particular way," said Crescent City resident Steve O'Dell. "I see this resolution, this body, as a bottom-up approach at making a grass-roots position, a stand, against the government that wants to take our gun rights."
While four supervisors supported the resolution, District 2 Supervisor Martha McClure abstained from voting.
"When I took office I swore an allegiance to the Constitution of the United States," she said, adding that she is also a gun owner. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would start cherry-picking amendments. If you're going to have a resolution to one, you need a resolution to 26."
Supervisors Gerry Hemmingsen, Michael Sullivan and David Finigan voted in favor of the resolution without comment.
Gitlin said he came up with the idea of a resolution in support of the Second Amendment after El Dorado and Siskiyou counties passed similar measures.
The resolution addresses recent "high profile events" that have jump-started the gun control debate and legislation. It also addresses Del Norte's ranching, farming and natural resources industries, saying the right to bear arms "is fundamental to our right to protect our families, our property, our livestock and our livelihood."
The resolution states that "the strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." It also states that "the government of California has repeatedly released violent criminals back into its lawful society."
Del Norte County Sheriff Dean Wilson spoke in favor of the resolution. He said gun control regulations proposed in Sacramento are what concerned him the most, because they definitely abridge Second Amendment rights.
"Whether it's requiring insurance, whether it's requiring persons to go through gun safety courses in order to be approved to have a firearm, whether it's restrictions and taxation on ammunition, those things will and are going to infringe and abridge our right to keep and bear arms," he said.
Crescent City resident Bill Lonsdale was the lone member of the public to speak against the resolution, although he said he supports the Second Amendment. He argued that the resolution's goal would be better served if all those who supported it put their energy into writing their state and federal representatives or contributing to gun rights advocates like the National Rifle Association.
Lonsdale said he was concerned when Gitlin ran for supervisor last year that he would introduce a national agenda into the proceedings of a local board.
"Having to take a vote on this resolution disadvantages one or more of your colleagues because for procedural reasons or whatever reasons they may be disinclined to vote for the resolution," Lonsdale said. "Whereupon in the next election they will be vilified and replaced with somebody who agrees with Mr. Gitlin."
Gitlin said he could support gun control legislation that limit access to weapons by the mentally ill. The bad guns will always get guns, he said, but it's the good guys following the rules who get penalized by gun control.
Gitlin also took issue with Lonsdale's statement.
"If not us, who?" he asked. "If this is not the appropriate venue to stand up and assert our rights at the local level of government, then where? Do we wait for Washington to make a pronouncement? Do we wait for Sacramento to make a pronouncement?"
The gun control legislation that speakers commented on included U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's proposed national assault weapons ban and state Sen. Leland Yee's proposal to prohibit the use of the "bullet button" and other devices that allow for easily changeable magazines on military-style assault weapons.
Yee has also proposed legislation that would require all guns to be properly stored when not in the owner's presence.
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