ELY— A Second Amendment town hall set for this Saturday in Ely sponsored by Rep. Roger Skraba, of Ely, and Sen. Nathan Wesenberg, of Little Falls, is raising questions about the intention of …
ELY— A Second Amendment town hall set for this Saturday in Ely sponsored by Rep. Roger Skraba, of Ely, and Sen. Nathan Wesenberg, of Little Falls, is raising questions about the intention of the forum, led by the two Republicans.
The event, set for 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. comes in the wake of the decision by the Itasca County Board to declare that county a “Second Amendment sanctuary.”
The Itasca County action is part of a movement across the country under which some counties, states, and municipalities are declaring autonomy against enforcement of either state or federal gun laws, arguing that any restrictions on guns are unconstitutional. That’s a position at odds with more than a century of legal rulings in the U.S.
Nearly a dozen Minnesota counties have already aligned themselves with the movement, with Itasca being the most recent to adopt a resolution announcing its unwillingness to enforce gun laws.
Leah Rogne, of Greaney, sees the GOP-sponsored effort as part of a campaign of scare tactics designed to motivate conservative voters. “The timing of the county resolution initiative and Second Amendment town halls being held in our region makes it clear that this is an effort to gin up fears of gun confiscation and government overreach,” said Rogne, a retired sociology professor.
The addition of Sen. Wesenberg as part of the forum is raising further concerns, given the newly-elected lawmaker’s penchant for extremist views. At a Capitol rally in January, Wesenberg indicated support for the arrest of Gov. Tim Walz for his actions to address the COVID-19 pandemic. He also referred to the COVID vaccine as a “death shot,” a claim that appears wildly at odds with the actual experience of those receiving a COVID shot. Since they became available in 2021, the vaccines have been given more than 12 billion times around the world, including 620 million times in the U.S.
Rogne called Wesenberg “a poster child for the far right,” and argues that Wesenberg is using the Second Amendment town halls to stir up conservative voters.
Rep. Skraba suggested he’s not aware of Wesenberg’s views. “To be honest, I don’t even know the guy. He reached out to me about doing the event.”
This isn’t the first time that Skraba has aligned himself in public events with individuals with extreme views. During his last campaign, Skraba sponsored a showing of the widely discredited movie 2000 Mules, which made false claims about fraud in the 2020 election.
While Skraba said he has concerns about some of the gun safety legislation currently percolating through the committee process in St. Paul, he said he’s not advocating for St. Louis County to become a 2nd Amendment sanctuary.
Skraba said he’s looking for input from constituents on a wide range of issues. A flyer promoting the event lists Second Amendment legislation, the $18 billion budget surplus, Social Security tax cuts, and “Other issues affecting our way of life on The Range.”
“I want to get a feel for where people are on these issues,” said Skraba. “And I want to know peoples’ feelings on the marijuana bill as well. I try not to pick a side.”
Skraba said he’s also concerned about the future of nursing homes in the state, as well as rural ambulances and said he’s working with his DFL counterpart, Sen. Grant Hauschild, to develop legislation to assist ambulance services in the region that are facing severe financial challenges.
Gun bills pending
Meanwhile, Skraba expressed concern about a bill that would require Minnesotans to secure their guns and ammunition in locked cabinets or safes. He said the government shouldn’t be telling gun owners how to handle weapons and ammunition within the confines of their own home. “It’s the government telling you what you can do with your Second Amendment right,” said Skraba. “It’s a right, not a privilege. This isn’t where government is needed.”
Other firearms legislation currently advancing in St. Paul include a universal background check requirement for private sales of firearms. Similar measures have been approved in 21 other states, but the measure is strongly opposed by some gun advocates. Law enforcement organizations, such as the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association are in support of safe storage requirements, universal background checks, and a mandatory reporting requirement by gun owners if a firearm is stolen. The Legislature is also considering a so-called “red flag” law that would allow for the seizure of an individual’s guns if a court finds that they present an imminent danger to themselves or others. Other provisions in the pending legislation would limit the purchase of assault-style rifles to those 21 years of age and older and prohibit the sale of large capacity magazines.
Gun advocates argue that such laws would have little impact in reducing gun violence, but would infringe on the rights of gun owners.
With the DFL in control of the Legislature, the prospects for gun safety regulations appear much stronger than in the recent past.