Michigan Gun Owners Pack County Board Meeting


Staff member
Despite the fact that a gun control resolution was pulled from the agenda before the Calhoun County Board of Commissioners' meeting, it was standing room only in the 200-capacity board chambers on Thursday night, with more than 60 additional people flooding the hallway.

A thunderous Pledge of Allegiance preceded a series of speeches on upholding the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which received applause and some standing ovations.

While Chairman Mike Rae, D-Pennfield Township, told the crowd before the public comment period that the item was mistakenly placed on the agenda, veterans, sportsmen, hunters and other residents spoke out against the item, pleading with the board to commit to keeping it off future agendas, or to vote against it in the future.

U.S. Air Force veteran Tom Starkweather of Battle Creek told the board it should focus on educating the public about proper and safe gun use, rather than taking away rights from law-abiding citizens. Starkweather, 53, served 24 years in the U.S. Air Force.

"It was troubling to find out, after serving that number of years defending the Constitution, to learn they're trying to chip away at those rights," Starkweather said before the meeting.

"It never should have been on the agenda in the first place," Rae said.

Before the meeting, Rae said "I'm not even sure where it came from," but at an 8 p.m. recess he admitted to putting it on the agenda himself.

"I'll take responsibility for that," Rae said.

Board secretary Mary Lou Barrett said during the recess that the item came in alongside another communication from the NAACP, a proclamation declaring Feb. 12 "NAACP Centennial Day."

"They were supporting it, and were asking for our support, too," Barrett explained. "Usually that type of communication would go on the consent agenda. It was mistakenly placed on the agenda as an action item."

At the meeting, the proposed ban gained attention from activists such as Judy Robinson, club manager of Centerline Gun Club, secretary of Calhoun County Gun Owners Association and a member of the American Federation of Tactical Shooters.

Robinson said Rae called her this morning about the item coming off the agenda.

Commissioner Terris Todd, D-Battle Creek, said toward the end of the meeting that he would have opposed the resolution, and Commissioner Jim Haadsma, D-Battle Creek, Commissioner Julie Camp, R-East Leroy, and Rae echoed that sentiment.

"Frankly, it's an infringement on citizens' rights," Todd said.

Assistant County Administrator Brad Wilcox said Thursday he could not find any current county gun ordinances, and that the agenda item was a resolution of support for existing federal legislation rather than a consideration of a new county law.

After the crowd thinned out, the county board in a 5-0 vote, with Haadsma abstaining, appointed Dr. Kirk Lee, D-Albion, as new District 7 commissioner to replace Eusebio Solis, D-Albion, who resigned his post Jan. 8 to become the county's chief assistant prosecuting attorney.

Before the appointment, Haadsma moved, with support from Camp, to not fill the District 7 seat until voters choose a replacement.

"It became apparent to me that whoever we appoint would have an advantage in the primary, and that is why I have changed my mind," Camp said.

That motion was defeated 4-2, supported only by Haadsma and Camp.

"It is quite evident that the people of the Seventh District would like to have representation, and have representation now," Todd said.

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