Emotions ran high at last Tuesday’s Colville City Council meeting when the council voted against passing a proclamation that would have rec¬ognized Feb. 4, 2013 as Second Amendment Appreciation Day. It was standing room only in the council chambers with people trickling out into the adjacent hallway.
The proclamation, which was written and presented to council by Colville resident Jack Smith, was voted down four to three. A roll call vote was taken where each council member had to state his or her vote out loud. Terry Foster, Mike Birch and Bill Beatty voted yes; Anne Lawson, Dorothy Bergin, Lou Janke and Nancy Foll voted no.
The proclamation was not read out loud at the meeting, nor had all present seen it.
“In order that we do lose our moral compass, it is timely, proper, and responsible to affirmatively proclaim our allegiance to these natural and Constitutional rights,” Smith wrote in a letter to the City of Colville. “By affirming our respect for the 2nd Amendment, we proclaim our allegiance to all of them.”
In his letter Smith went on to say that in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy last December, fear is fueling long-standing opposition to the 2nd Amendment.
State has bill to counteract federal attempts at gun control
“Political debate is perfectly acceptable, but the emotional hysteria ginned up in this case is worrisome,” Smith said in his letter. “It has affected the law-abiding citizens of this community and local commerce. Our community is seized by fear, not the fear of a mad killer, but the fear of the criminalization of the traditional and protected rights of gun ownership and access.” (To read the complete copy of Smith’s proposed proclamation, see the attached file to this story)
Nationwide, the gun debate rages on, with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden advocating tougher restrictions on certain firearms, including bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazine clips, and universal background checks for all gun buyers.
In Washington State, representatives have recently introduced HB 1371: The Washington State Firearms Freedom Act. The bill reads, “Any federal law, rule, regulation, or order created or effective on or after Jan. 1, 2013 shall be unenforceable within the borders of Washington if the law, rule, regulation, or order attempts to: (a) Ban or restrict ownership of a semiautomatic firearm or any magazine of a firearm; or (b) Require any firearm, magazine, or other firearm accessory to be registered in any manner.”
Sheriff speaks up
The crowd was not pleased with the outcome of the roll call vote, and made their opinions known in the public comment portion of the meeting. Stevens County Sheriff Kendle Allen, who was present at last Tuesday’s meeting along with Stevens County Commissioner Steve Parker, firmly but politely stated that he would not support any future federal or state regulations pertaining to stronger gun control.
“I believe in the 2nd Amendment, but I do think that if we see any restrictions on guns it will most likely be implemented at the state level as opposed to it being a matter of the federal government coming in to take our guns away,” Allen said. “However, if that were to happen, you can be sure I will be standing side-by-side with you at your front door to prevent it.”
Audience members jeered several of the council members who voted against the proclamation, but Smith gave a polite reminder that the meeting should remain civil. After the meeting he shook hands with each council member and thanked them for their time and attention.
According to the Colville City Clerk, the Colville Council passed five proclamations in 2011 and five in 2012, which were the total number of proclamations presented to the council both years.
A proclamation is a formal announcement and/or an official declaration that is not a law. When contacted by the S-E as to why they voted the way they did on the 2nd Amendment Appreciation Day Proclamation, each council member had their own personal reasons.
“"I support the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” said Nancy Foll in an email. “I did not support the Proclamation presented to Council by Jack Smith because of ambiguous language and the possibility of a variety of interpretations."
‘There is no question I support the Constitution…’
In an email to the S-E Lou Janke pointed out that none of the proposed gun safety laws infringe on the Second Amendment, citing the District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), where the United States Supreme Court states that possession of firearms is, "Not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry weapons in any manner whatso¬ever and for whatever purpose".
“There is no question I support the Constitution, Bill of Rights and amendments to them. I feel the proposed proclamation went much further than supporting the second amendment. I believe in the right to bear arms, but also believe the government has a right and responsibility to reset policy on gun safety,” stated Janke. “It seemed most of those who spoke (at the meeting) were in fear of loosing their right to keep and bear arms of their choosing. They fear regulation that they feel may fringe on their rights. I did not agree with language in the proposed proclamation such as, "so that freeborn citi¬zens need not live in fear of the criminalization of activi¬ties long considered natural and traditional"; " the Second Amendment is considered the palladium of liberty and the safeguard of the first law of nature, that is the right of self-defense.”
“There is no question on supporting the Second Amendment. I do feel it is important for all to consider and give their input to their state and national representatives to express their opinions and concerns to help shape prudent gun control measures that may go forth. I do agree that we should have concern on reasonable gun safety measures. The Second Amendment is not the issue. The discussion should be about gun safety laws and safety to our citizens.”
Mike Birch said that while he doesn’t think his fellow council members that opposed the proclamation are against the 2nd Amendment, he thinks the proclamation should have passed.
“In my opinion, it was definitely what they (the people) wanted,” said Birch. “My platform when I ran for council was that I would be the voice of the people. I think it’s my job to listen to what they want.”
‘I’m about as pro 2nd Amendment as you’re going to find…’
Bill Beatty, who voted yes, said that council passes proclamations, “all the time” and he saw nothing wrong with the city showing its ap¬preciation of the one of the amendments of the constitution.
“I’m about as pro 2nd Amendment as you’re going to find out there,” said Beatty. “I was elected by the people; if the people want something, even if I don’t agree with it, I’ll still vote for it, because I’m supposed to be a voice for the people.”
Council member Terry Foster stated that the 2nd Amendment is the, “Last bastion to protect us and our from tyranny abroad as well as from our leaders.”
“I was disappointed in the outcome of the vote, but I feel encouraged that the issue is coming to the forefront of conversation.”
Anne Lawson said that even though council members were divided on their opinions of the issue, she praised her colleagues for being able to have a rational discussion on the matter and walk out of the council chambers, “arm-in-arm, figuratively speaking.”
“I don’t see my role as someone who should support one part of the constitution over another,” said Lawson. “It’s not really within the purview of the city to do that.”
The reason Dorothy Bergin gave for her “no” vote was that since all council members are required to swear an oath to uphold the constitution before they take office she, “Did not feel the need to reiterate.”
“I have no problem with the 2nd Amendment,” said Bergin. “I just don’t think it’s a city council matter.”
To listen to the complete minutes of the 2nd Amend¬ment Appreciation Day Proclamation and public comment from the Jan. 22 council meeting, go to http://www.colville.wa.us/Council%20minutes.htm .
To see comments from Colville Mayor Deborah Rarrick, look for her column in this week’s S-E newspaper.
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