By John Dowd 

County supports gun rights

Commissioners won't pursue sanctuary ordinance for county


March 18, 2021

Former Montana Senator Greg Hinkle met with Sanders County Commissioners last week to offer input on the proposed Second Amendment ordinance residents have asked for from commissioners. Several residents attended the meeting last Wednesday at the Sanders County Courthouse.

“A resolution is fine, but it’s got no teeth,” said Hinkle, of Thompson Falls. He then spoke about several bills being looked at by the Montana legislature this session that could change the way the state supports the Second Amendment, creating a statewide safe haven for gun owners. Hinkle explained to the commissioners and those present that an ordinance could be a good start, but it would be more effective to go to the state and to put energy into supporting statewide ratification. Hinkle continued that putting these things in the hands of the state would take some responsibility off the commissioners.

A few of the bills Hinkle mentioned were Senate Bill 277, House Bill 436 and House Bill 560. SB 277 would revise laws regarding state’s rights. According to Hinkle, other states including Arizona and the Dakotas, are looking at these laws as well. The bill would prevent federal enforcement of unconstitutional laws.

Rep. Jedediah Hinkle introduced House Bill 258 this session, “an act prohibiting the enforcement of any federal ban on or regulation of firearms, magazines, ammunition, ammunition components, or firearm accessories.” In response to that legislation, Sanders County Commissioners Glen Magera, Carol Brooker and Tony Cox sent a letter this week stating that “the Sanders County Montana Board of Commissioners want to go on record as strongly supporting the Second Amendment. The constitutional rights of state residents including but not limited to the right to keep and bear arms should not be infringed upon. Laws apply equally to everyone and should not be selectively enforced or disregarded. If a law is bad, work to change it through the legislative process or challenge the constitutionality of it in a court of law. Ultimately, it is up to the Supreme Court.”

HB 436 would remove the penalty for bringing a concealed weapon into a restricted place. HB 560 would prevent state employees from enforcing federal laws passed after 2021 regarding firearms. Hinkle mentioned that Senate Bill 102 has already passed and was signed by the governor on March 2. It ensured that a concealed carry permit is no longer required in city limits in public places, except for in government buildings. Hinkle then brought up the supremacy clause, which states that the federal government controls only interstate relations, however, has little to no power on things that happen within the states. “We’re much better off working at the state level,” said Hinkle.

Sanders County Ledger canvas prints

The former state senator then asked the commissioners to look at the bills and to send a letter of support to the representatives considering them. Hinkle also encouraged the members of the community present at the meeting to do the same. “It’s a lot easier to convince 50 states to stand against the federal government than 3,006 counties,” said Cox in response to Hinkle’s presentation. Cox, however, said that he would want to look further into the bills in question before sending any support. Hinkle then closed by saying “this isn’t a left or right issue; this is a human rights issue.”

In the audience, Chris Stough, who ran last election for a commissioner’s position in Sanders County, asked if the commissioners would give out some kind of notice if they had reached out to state representatives. The commissioners said that they would. Other members of the group asked the commissioners to move forward on the ordinance as well as to send support for the state bills. The group maintained that the county needs an ordinance to create a sanctuary for gun ownership in the county.

On Friday, Cox told The Ledger, “The Sanders County commissioners fully support the Second Amendment and the right of our citizens to keep and bear arms, however, we will not be doing a sanctuary county ordinance. There are several gun bills currently in the state legislature and we will see how they play out.” The commissioners, including Cox, Magera and Brooker, last week also sent a letter to the state senate regarding SB 277, saying “Sanders County strongly supports the Second Amendment and the right of our citizens to keep and bear arms. As for SB 277, Sanders County supports a shorter version to simply require a review of an executive order issued by the president of the United States that has not been affirmed by a vote of Congress and signed into law. If that review by the Montana Attorney General indicates the order is unconstitutional the order shall be challenged in a court of law.”


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