EDMONTON – Metcalfe County Fiscal Court held off Tuesday on joining several other county governments that have approved various versions of actions supporting their residents' right to own firearms, though several members of the public spoke passionately in favor.
The issue appears far from dead, however.
Magistrate Kenny Scott mentioned at the Dec. 23 meeting that he'd heard a resolution was circulating and after slight discussion, it was decided they would invite some of the local supporters back for the Jan. 14 meeting. The fiscal court was advised by County Attorney Barry Gilley at that time that such a resolution would have no legal binding.
Resolutions passed by several Kentucky counties have intended to essentially make them “sanctuary” places where any attempts to infringe on the rights provided by the U.S. Constitution would not be enforced.
Judge-Executive Stilts said a proposed resolution had been delivered to him Jan. 2, but he had concerns about some of the wording. It said the fiscal court would “not recognize the authority or jurisdiction of any state or federal entity that attempts to infringe on our residents' Constitutional rights by any means, including but not limited to red flag laws, magazine restrictions, firearm restrictions, ammo restrictions, bans and/or confiscations, as their power does not supersede that of our Creator or the Constitution.”
It would resolve that the fiscal court would use “any legal means at its disposal” to protect the rights, up to and including directing the county's law enforcement and judiciary “to not enforce any unconstitutional laws.” The proposed resolution would have the fiscal court urging the Kentucky General Assembly, the U.S. Congress and any other state or federal agencies “to not only vigilantly preserve and protect those rights moving forward, but to also remove any current provisions, laws, regulations, and/or taxes that may infringe, have the tendency to infringe, or place any additional burdens on the second amendment right of law-abiding citizens.”
Roughly 30 people were in the audience apparently for that issue alone at Tuesday's meeting, and several voiced their opinions about the need for such a resolution.
Larry Land, chairman of the Metcalfe County Republican Party, said the wording of the 2nd Amendment is not ambiguous, and he recalled a quote from Revolutionary War times that those who seek to disarm are also the ones against whom you must take up arms.
“Tyranny is even in Republic forms of government ...,” he said, adding that he and most people he's talked to support the 2nd Amendment. “I do believe it would be a very good thing if this county would adopt a resolution saying that we are a 2nd Amendment sanctuary county, simply because I agree. The people's voice needs to be heard.”
He said sooner or later, someone needs to take a stand, and he was willing to stand with people in favor of this.
Gene Fahey, commander of the American Legion post in Metcalfe County, said one of the things he believes has already been lost is the 14th Amendment, and he cited the portion that states, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” He said he believes it's better to be proactive and try to fight off efforts at infringement rather than try to recover rights once they're gone.
Dagan Rock, who said he's a farmer and veteran from Center, said he's heard a lot of concerns from people like it has no real legal authority.
“I would just like to remind everybody that when the Continental Congress asked Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence, they did so with no legal authority. The British government did not recognize it, and in signing it, they signed their own death and arrest warrants,” he said. “What made the difference were the people that stood with them and behind them.”
He asked the fiscal court to remember when they took up the vote that “Washington, D.C., did not put you in these seats. Neither did Frankfort. The people of this county did.”
Donald Smith said the federal government and politicians use mass shootings to classify certain guns as assault weapons and try to confiscate them, and he said any gun could be an assault weapon, depending on how it's used.
“To me, it's more about control than it is us having guns. They want to take our guns because they can't control without taking our guns, and this why this is a big concern to me here – making where they can't just walk in here and just, 'Well, we're taking your gun,' because I ain't giving them mine.”
Stilts said turned the floor over to Gilley.
Gilley told the crowd that he's one of them, and a gun owner himself.
“I'll be with you in the long run,” the county attorney said, “but my job here is I swore an oath to tell this fiscal court what the law is."
He said the state law he was about to tell them about – Kentucky Revised Statute 65.870 – was actually passed in 1984 at their request. A city had decided that, because the state and federal government hadn't restricted guns as much as it wanted, it would pass an ordinance restricting the right to bear guns in that city.
“We, as gun-rights people got up in arms and went to Frankfort, and we requested they pass a law to stop that, and they did,” Gilley said before reading the law aloud that prohibits local governments and other such entities from occupying “any part of the field of regulation of the manufacture, sale, purchase, taxation, transfer, ownership, possession, carrying, storage, or transportation of firearms, ammunition, components of firearms, components of ammunition, firearms accessories, or combination thereof.”
“That's our law. Well, our law's going to bite us on the butt. … That law of itself renders the resolution that you all have brought to us as illegal,” he said. “And it was our law. We did it.”
Further, the exemption from civil liability the fiscal court or its agents has would also be nullified if they attempt to make any vote regarding firearms, and they would have personal liability if anyone sued them over it and they could be charged with official misconduct.
Even with all that, Gilley said, he still thinks they're better off with this state law than without it.
Warren County recently passed a different version of a resolution that Stilts heard about and got for him. Gilley read that one aloud, replacing the county name with Metcalfe. It recognizes the authority of the Kentucky and U.S. constitutions, and says the fiscal court members reaffirm their oaths of office to support and defend those constitutions and “vow to vigorously oppose the passage of any law that would violate either” constitution.
After further discussion, some in the audience, like Daniel Young and Terri Cassady, said they didn't want the fiscal court members to get in trouble over their actions but they needed to still approve something that would fix that issue and still show their support.
“Take care of us,” Larry Hurt said. “Fix it where it will work for us.”
Gilley said he thought that's what the Warren County version did.
Others, like Lynn Chapman, told the fiscal court they needed to have more backbone and back the people who put them in office and be their voice.
Stilts, who said he's a Vietnam veteran himself, said he thought they knew the court members were standing with them and their rights, and the Warren County version would demonstrate that.
Magistrate Kevin Crain said he thought they needed to take a look at the Warren County version and see whether additional wording could be added that would satisfy the others, and Magistrate Ronnie Miller agreed they should wait, so a motion to table it until the next meeting was approved unanimously.