“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The Second Amendment — in fact, the entirety of the Constitution — should speak for itself as the supreme law of the land.
In the spaces between the words, however, is almost limitless interpretation, argument and political posturing.
In recent weeks, several Minnesota counties have voted to declare themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries.”
And while Otter Tail County officials have discussed their own vote, we believe their wait-and-see approach is best.
Local lawmakers designating their counties as somehow above state or federal law is misguided, and could create complications down the road.
Minnesotans are right to be concerned about any possible erosion of their freedoms. A potential future state “red flag” law would give law enforcement and concerned relatives an avenue to petition the courts to have guns temporarily removed from people deemed to be a risk to themselves or others.
While this would seem a sensible emergency measure to keep dangerous weapons away from those with mental illness or the potential for violence, the application of such laws looks like a slippery slope to some gun owners and gun rights activists.
Voting to be considered a “Second Amendment sanctuary” county would serve notice that any state-mandated red flag or other gun laws would not necessarily be enforced.
"I'd love to see a dozen or more counties pass this resolution, so we can show Democrats that it's not even going to be enforced in a good chunk of rural Minnesota," said state Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal.
Roseau County commissioners were the first to pass a “Second Amendment Dedicated County” resolution. Roseau was subsequently joined by Wadena and Clearwater counties. They are all among 400 or so sanctuary communities nationwide to adopt such resolutions, according to reporting by Forum News Service.
But it’s not all as simple as that.
These resolutions are just that: resolutions. They have no teeth and, in fact, are nothing but feel-good words that are not enforceable.
In fact, they put local law enforcement in a tricky position: Many police and sheriff's deputies believe strongly in gun rights, but they are also tasked with carrying out the law.
“My oath says I enforce state laws," Roseau County Sheriff Steve Gust said in a previous Forum News Service story. "They can't stop me from that. Law enforcement officers have got an obligation."
And could the wording of a “sanctuary” resolution cause legal headaches for counties down the road?
Otter Tail County has decided to take “sanctuary” status under advisement, while also monitoring legislation activity relating to gun laws. In addition, the county will wait for completion of research and guidance from the Minnesota County Attorney’s Association.
This is the right method, for right now.
A resolution may be alienating, misleading and cause unforeseen problems. The point might also be moot, if the Minnesota Legislature does not take on the red flag issue.
Finally, it is not up to counties to reaffirm their dedication to the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution is baked in to our government at all levels.
Bottom line: No, municipalities and local government cannot opt-out of state law.
Otter Tail County is wise to recognize that.