Ward County schedules 2nd Amendment, vaccine mandate discussions
The fate of resolutions or ordinances supporting the Second Amendment and banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates could be decided next month.
The Ward County Commission has scheduled discussion for its Nov. 2 meeting after receiving word from the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office that it would not be issuing an opinion regarding the citizen-proposed measures.
The Attorney General’s Office determined the responsibility for advising the commission belongs to the state’s attorney. After reviewing State’s Attorney Rozanna Larson’s memorandum opinions on the two issues, the office responded her opinions are “comprehensive, providing detailed analyses and advice to the commission,” adding that “a court could determine that the commission members are derelict in their duties under the law for ignoring any advice from their state’s attorney.”
The commission previously voted to “receive and file” both of the proposed items.
“To be fair to all sides, I did not want it to go away through just a receive-and-file,” Commission Chairman John Fjeldahl said. “The only wish that I have is that we deal with it at some point in time — put it to rest.”
The commission postponed action Tuesday to allow members more time to review the language in two new resolution drafts presented by Larson.
The Second Amendment draft for commission consideration includes mention of a new state law that limits state and local law enforcement from assisting federal authorities in investigating, prosecuting or enforcing a violation of a federal law or rule, enacted after January 2021, regulating firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition, if the law or rule is more restrictive than state law.
The resolution states the commission’s intent is to “advocate the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of Ward County consistent with statutes of the state of North Dakota” and to not use county funds to restrict or aid in the restriction of Second Amendment rights. It also declares Ward County as a “Second Amendment Advocate” for all citizens abiding by the laws of the state.
Larson said the commission will need to decide whether to adopt any resolutions or proclamations but her draft language provides a framework that is within the county’s authority to adopt.
“It’s still my opinion that, even as a home-rule county, you don’t have authority to supersede federal and state laws because this is not strictly a local issue on either one of those matters,” she said.
Larson’s draft proclamation related to COVID-19 makes note of state and federal laws and guidance and commends the sacrifices of medical and emergency responders. It also acknowledges the federal government’s liability limits on manufacturers related to the COVID-19 vaccine, misinformation circulating regarding COVID-19 protections and preventions and the concern over mandates.
The resolution cites the county’s lack of a medical director or medical expertise and recognizes the limits of its powers even under home rule. It talks about the county’s lack of authority to issue ordinances that interfere with private business personnel policies or with the ability of entities to receive federal or state funding.
It resolves: “To the extent it does not contradict Federal or State laws, Ward County Board of Commission supports the rights of individuals’ freedom to choose whether or not to follow preventative or precautionary measures regarding COVID 19 and its variants. Nothing in this resolution shall be construed to supersede private business personnel policies or prevent other entities or agencies from implementing policies within their organization required to conform to Federal or State law.”
Opponents of COVID-19 vaccine mandates had presented two draft resolutions. Both resolved the county would not enforce any mask or vaccine mandate or attempt by private businesses to enact government mandates. They expressed the county’s intent to oppose all laws, mandates, rules or orders pertaining to medical treatments or attempts at COVID-19 mitigation made by governments. One resolution added opposition to those same efforts by private businesses. Any entity receiving county tax reductions or subsidies that would attempt to violate the resolution may be subject to revocation of those benefits, the citizen-drafted resolutions stated.
The proposed Preservation Act offered by citizens urging strong Second Amendment protections would prohibit public funds from being used to restrict Second Amendment rights and calls for the county to oppose and defend against unconstitutional gun laws.