FLORENCE — The Pinal County Board of Supervisors narrowly approved a resolution affirming support for Second Amendment rights Wednesday.
Supervisor Todd House, R-Apache Junction, who asked for the resolution, said it doesn’t infringe on any existing laws or create any new laws. He said 20% of the people in his district have a weapon with them at all times, and they have that right unless they’re ruled mentally incompetent, “and not the other way around.”
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right of the people to “keep and bear arms.”
The Pinal County resolution does not proclaim Pinal to be a “sanctuary” county, as resolutions in some other counties do. Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer told the board that was a conscious decision, as the word adds no material benefit and could create potential liabilities. The board also declined to designate the county a Second Amendment “preservation” county.
The resolution passed 3-2 with Supervisors Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, and Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, casting the “no” votes. Miller said his district is full of Second Amendment supporters, but no one had come to him with this as a pressing issue. He added the resolution neither opposes nor supports a specific action, “and that bothers me.”
Rios said he supports the Second Amendment and all the other amendments, but “if this is a real issue, maybe the board should wait until there’s a real threat. … Is this necessary for us to deal with at this time?”
Volkmer told the board it does not appear that Arizona will pass any “red flag” laws in the current legislative session. State lawmakers have previously considered legislation including a “STOP (Severe Threat Order of Protection) Order” that would give a court the ability to temporarily suspend a person’s right to purchase or possess a gun pending a mental health evaluation.
Rios said he was further concerned with a clause in the resolution that specifies the “Board of Supervisors will not authorize or appropriate government funds, resources, employees (etc.) for the purpose of enforcing laws that have been determined by lawful processes to unconstitutionally infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms.”
“I think that is some dangerous ground to plow,” Rios said, and leaves the county open to liability if law enforcement fails to take action it should’ve taken in a domestic violence case. Rios asked what effect the resolution would have on domestic violence laws or other laws.
Volkmer replied that “at the most basic level, (the resolution) doesn’t change anything” and “has no impact on current laws.” Supervisor Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, asked if the resolution put the board on record against any laws now on the books. Volkmer replied it’s not written to attack any existing law.
Supervisors Chairman Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, said it may only be symbolism, “but it also has deep meaning,” similar to the pledge to the American flag.
Volkmer said Mohave, La Paz, Yavapai and Maricopa counties have passed resolutions proclaiming support for the Second Amendment. Patrick Lacey of Maricopa, who supported the resolution, said Apache County had also gone on record, “so you’ll be the sixth,” he told the board.
Goodman said his constituents have also asked for his support of the Second Amendment, but asked for more time to work on the wording. “Let’s get it right,” he said.
But House responded, “I say do it now or it’s too late. … If we wait any longer, it won’t have the meaning it does now.” Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb spoke in favor of the resolution.
“I agree with what’s been said here: In many ways this is symbolism,” Lamb said. “But I’m out amongst the people of this county all the time and I can tell you for the majority of people this is a concern, where we stand as a county as it relates to the Constitution and in particular the Second Amendment.
“By doing this resolution, you are sending a message to your residents that you stand in support of the Constitution of the United States. … I think this resolution is timely and it does address some recent bills (in the Legislature).” Those bills may be going nowhere now, but they’re likely to be introduced again, Lamb said. “I can tell you the constituents of this county do care, and are listening and want to hear your voice,” the sheriff said.
The supervisors already support the U.S. Constitution in their oath of office, in which they each swear to “support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Arizona, (and) bear true faith and allegiance to the same … .”
Other speakers were opposed.
“Why are we doing this?” Keith Seaman of Casa Grande asked. “I think it’s a waste of this board’s time. Don’t pass this unneeded symbolic resolution just because other counties are doing it.”
Sharon Girard of Eloy called the resolution “a solution waiting for a problem. … It’s unnecessary and a waste of time.” She asked who would foot the bill when taxpayers fight it, and added it “attacks the safety of the citizens you vow to protect.”
David Coward of Gold Canyon said it presents “a branding issue” for the county. “Do we want to jump on this bandwagon?” He urged the board to reject the resolution and “show Pinal County is different, we are in the 21st century.”
Goodman responded that speakers who called the resolution a waste of time were wrong. “If it were, you wouldn’t be here.”