JEFFERSON — Ashe County commissioners voted on Jan. 21 to affirm a resolution declaring Ashe County as a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” The vote was approved 5-0.
Every seat in the courtroom was full and additional members of the community who came to support the resolution were gathered outside.
Prior to the motion, the board of commissioners shared their response to the many community members who came forward to speak on the topic.
Commissioner Larry Dix led the discussion by saying he feels strongly that some action needed to be taken to do what is right.
Commissioner Paula Perry added that the constitution can be removed and it is important that this resolution is passed in order to make Ashe County’s voice known to Raleigh and to Washington.
“I grew up less than 50 miles from here, and growing up we lived off the land, we hunted and fished — that’s where most of our meat came from. And, I think every home had a firearm I grew up with that. And hardly anybody locked their doors back then, we didn’t even have a key to our front door. That’s just the way that we lived,” Commissioner William Sands said.
Sands said he feels strongly that the laws set forth by the founding fathers of the United States need to be kept in place
Vice Chairman Larry Rhodes said he has enjoyed hunting over the years and owns a concealed weapon, as well as shotguns and rifles.
“It warms my heart to see this room full; I wish it was this full every time we met because this is the way that America works. You can come out, you can say what’s on your mind with no fear,” Chairman Todd McNeill said before the motion was made to adopt the resolution.
Eighteen members of the community signed up to participate in the public comment discussion period to speak about gun rights.
Comments were limited to three minutes each and those who wished to address any members of the board could not address them individually, but had to address the board as a whole. McNeill also stressed that respect be granted to each person who stood up and spoke.
Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell kicked off the discussion by saying the resolution is a step in the right direction.
“I learned a lot teaching concealed carry over the last five years and I learned that there is a lot of good people out there that are willing to carry for the betterment of everybody else,” Howell said.
Donna Apple, who moved to the area, was the only one to speak in opposition of the resolution presented by the county commissioners. Apple does respect the right of law-abiding citizens to have guns and that she believes that probably 95 percent of the people who own guns in the county are good, responsible gun owners.
Her main argument was that she is bothered by how the discussion about guns has become political.
“I need to ask you as commissioners, by passing this resolution are you saying you agree with there being no gun regulations at all? Are you saying that you believe anyone can have a gun and have whatever kind of gun they choose and can carry that gun wherever,” Apple said to the board.
She also shared a personal experience she had as a teacher when the school she was working at went into lockdown due to an active shooter on campus.
“No one was hurt, but I will truly never forget that. So laws such as background checks, assault weapon bans, bans of bump stocks and high capacity magazines seem sensible to me. You say this resolution is only stating that you don’t agree with any infringement regarding the right to bear arms, but everyone in this country, this state and this county has that right now. Please don’t be short-sighted, please don’t jump on a bandwagon,” Apple said.
Ashe County Board of Commissioners candidate and former N.C. Rep. Jonathan Jordan also spoke at the podium to say that he appreciates what the commissioners are doing and to voice his support of the resolution and the U.S. Constitution.
“It is the prime document of our government, and to restrict that is to restrict our basic form of government. And I think that we should fight that in all possible ways,” Jordan said in reference to the Constitution.
Jordan shared that he does have a concealed carry license himself and he encourages the people to support constitutional rights.
Carlos Dominguez, who is originally from Cuba, said he always knew what a great country the U.S. was because his father was employed by the American government.
He and his family migrated in 1965 and became American citizens.
“We came to the country not to change the laws, but to abide by them. The Constitution is our God-given right,” Dominguez said
In Cuba, officials went door-to-door confiscating weapons because former prime minister of Cuba, Fidel Castro said they needed guns for the revolution to fight against the U.S., he said. Those who didn’t give up their guns were sent to prison.
“So today, every time I hear people attacking because of the Second Amendment and wanting to take away our guns, I say to myself, ‘Where the heck are we gonna run next,’” Dominguez said.
“There’s no other country like this one. So, we need to protect our Constitution and our Second Amendment, and I stand by 100 percent and I ask you to please go on with this resolution and whatever you have to do to protect our Second Amendment, I’m for it. Thank you and God bless America,” Dominguez said.