Manatee commissioners pass Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution

ABC7 News at 6pm
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 2:34 PM EDT
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BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) - Manatee County is now a Second Amendment Sanctuary, the county commission decided Tuesday.

Commissioners approved a resolution in a 6-1 vote, with Commissioner George Kruse dissenting. The resolution “unequivocally acknowledges and affirms our residents’ rights to keep and bear arms as set forth in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Commissioner James Bearden proposed the resolution. “Forty-plus counties in the state are already Second Amendment Sanctuary counties,” he said. “I want the public to know that in Manatee County, we will always protect your constitutional God-given rights. You have the right to protect yourself. It is a God-given right.”

County Attorney William Clague told commissioners that after being directed to draft the resolution, his staff studied similar measured passed around the country and used a measure from neighboring Polk County as a template.

Clague pointed out the resolution does not change any laws currently on the books. “It’s not a regulatory document that has a legal effect. It’s a policy statement of the board,” he said.

Despite that, Kruse had serious reservations about one clause in the resolution that, he said, could obligate the county to use public funds to sue the federal government over gun control issues.

The clause in question: “Manatee County will take no action whatsoever to jeopardize, diminish, or impair our residents’ Second Amendment rights and will legally defend against laws seeking in any way to jeopardize, diminish, or impair such rights.”

Kruse says the clause “is a problem. It’s problem for everyone one else on the planet except for Polk County,” he said.

To say the county will legally defend against future legislation “is an actionable item in my mind,” he said. “It specifically is worded to say says we will legally defend against laws ... This board can use taxpayer dollars to take the state or federal government to court at their own whim.”

He noted Clauge’s observation that commissioners can actually be criminally prosecuted under state law for dealing with firearms regulation.

Bearden took exception to Kruse’s position. “You raised your right hand to defend the Constitution. You have the obligation to protect the Constitution,” he said.

“I do not have the obligation to use taxpayer funds to sue the federal government based upon my opinion,” Kruse countered.

If the government came in here and said ‘we’re going to come and take your guns,’ you wouldn’t want to file a lawsuit against the federal government?’” Bearden asked.

“An individual, 100%, can do whatever they want,” Kruse replied.

Bearden continued to press Kruse. “If the government restricted my freedom of speech?”

“You could sue them. I’m not going to do it for you,” Kruse said. “I think you seriously misunderstand the role of a county commissioner when it comes to the Constitution.”

Virginia McCallum, with the group Moms Demand Action, a gun violence prevention organization. “This resolution is of great concern to me ... The vast majority of Americans and Floridians support common sense gun laws. Instead of passing dangerous resolutions, our leaders should focus on solution that keep our families safe.”

Tuesday’s vote come a day after a mass shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville where six people. including three children, were killed before police shot and killed the gunman.

There have been 15 mass shootings at schools or universities in the U.S. since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, the Associated Press reports. Of those 15 shootings, 175 people have died, the data shows.

In Florida, a bill (CS/HB 543) that would allow citizens to carry a concealed weapon without a license has passed the House and is expected to pass through the Senate soon. Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.