Colorado Springs-Shooting
Crime tape is set up near a nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022 where a mass shooting left five people dead. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

The county board may vote to join at least 20 other counties and several local government boards in passing gun-related measures rooted in politically-inspired paranoia, making it harder to stop the next mass shooting.

A red flag law should have played a role in preventing a recent mass shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that killed six people, but a local decision to publicly oppose gun safety measures made it easier for the shooter to obtain weapons. Now, a western Wisconsin county wants to be the latest local government to adopt the same anti-safety measure in our state.

The St. Croix County board is expected to take up a resolution Tuesday that “reaffirms its commitment to the Constitution,” in a measure that only mentions the Second Amendment, cherry-picking its language in the process.

“The Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States provides that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,’” the resolution states. 

Opponents of gun safety measures frequently neglect to include the full language of the amendment, which starts with, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…,” which frames gun possession rights around militias that require organization, training, discipline, and a time commitment serving the country.

The resolution in St. Croix County is a substantially weaker version of others around the country that go so far as to declare the counties to be a “Second Amendment Sanctuary,” where local law enforcement is instructed or given permission to disregard any gun safety measures passed at the state or federal level. Such resolutions often make baseless and paranoid claims about the threat that law-abiding citizens will have their firearms seized by a tyrannical government.

Paul Hambleton, a retired educator who has worked with the St. Croix County Democratic Party, believes there is harm in passing even a watered-down expression of a resolution because it shows a willingness to instigate a rebellion over a gun confiscation scheme that does not exist.

“Many feel strongly that this is only a first step,” Hambleton said. “When you listen to the supporters talk about it, they are openly saying that this resolution prepares us for a pending apocalypse, where it will be necessary to have armed combat with a tyrannical government. It’s intimidation and menace at its worst.  This kind of rhetoric is dangerous and can lead to terrible outcomes. If they can do this, what’s coming next?”

In Colorado Springs, a local resolution circumventing the state’s red flag law may have made it easier for the gunman, Aldrich Lee Anderson, to buy firearms despite having a clear record of dangerous behavior. 

Red flag laws allow guns to be removed from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others—but only after a process where a judge weighs arguments from family members or law enforcement petitioners.

El Paso County, where Colorado Springs is located, passed a resolution in 2019 opposing red flag laws, making the false claim that the public safety measure “infringes upon the inalienable rights of law-abiding citizens” by ordering police to “forcibly enter premises and seize a citizen’s property with no evidence of a crime.” 

Another St. Croix County resolution opponent, Kerry Kittle, told UpNorthNews the resolution is a solution in search of a problem since numerous US Supreme Court decisions have expanded access to gun ownership while restricting local government safeguards.

“If this is about protecting rights and freedoms, why limit a resolution to one portion of an edited Second Amendment?” Kittle said. “Why not resolve to protect the entire Bill of Rights? Imagine the public outcry if an atheist or agnostic group wanted a resolution passed using a portion of the First Amendment and asking the board to protect us ‘from the establishment of religion.’”

Kittle and Hambleton are also alarmed that the resolution is going through the committee process and coming to the full board in less than a week. They want the county board to slow down its consideration of the resolution to allow more of their constituents to weigh in.

“If there was a way to delay this,” Hambleton said on UpNorthNews Radio. “To have a conversation about it, to have a community meeting about it, to talk about what the implications of this are—I do think that it even has potentially economic implications. I think we need a longer, thoughtful [discussion], not a quick slam it through.”

“If there was a way our board could simply say, ‘let’s wait a minute, maybe do a referendum.’ What if they have to have it put it down so that everybody gets a voice. It’s not just a small group of really angry, kind of frightening people who come up and say, ‘we’re all going to die if we don’t have guns in our basement.’”

“I don’t think everybody agrees with that,” Hambleton continued.At least 20 Wisconsin counties and numerous cities and towns have passed some form of specific Second Amendment support or instructions to disobey certain gun safety laws.