Members of the Humboldt County Commission faced a packed room at their July 8 meeting. While there a great number of agenda items, the one item that everyone showed up for was to have the Commission address the need for a resolution regarding recent gun rights legislation.
A group of citizens headed by Dawn Principe, owner of Sage Hill Arms, represented a group of Humboldt County citizens who asked Sheriff Mike Allen and the Board of Commissioners to clearly state their position on the Constitution’s Second Amendment. The group is concerned that recent State legislation that was signed into law by Governor Steve Sisolak infringes on their right to keep and bear arms.
Principe read a statement drafted by the group to the Sheriff and Commission asking for “clarification on where our elected officials stand on the many unconstitutional laws going into effect.”
The group statement declares that the current laws going into effect are a direct violation of the United State Constitution.
“We are looking to find out if State law or Second Amendment Constitutional law will be upheld in Humboldt County, and to work as a team to make sure law-abiding citizens will not be treated as criminals in the near future.”
In response, Sheriff Allen said, “I am deeply concerned about what occurred as well, I do feel the Second Amendment challenges that arose from this year's legislative session are extremely important. The gun exchange law and other antigun laws that were passed at this year's legislative session are deeply concerning to me.”
He told the group and the Commission that “I stand by the Second Amendment — and let me reiterate — I stand by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.”
Sheriff Allen went on to say that because of the concerns and frustrations of the citizens of Humboldt County, he reached out to other sheriffs in Nevada and organized a meeting on March 29, 2019.
“As a result of this meeting, the sheriffs came together on these important gun right issues, and in a unified effort we feel best represents the citizens of our counties agreed to sign a letter to reiterate our stance in protect our US Constitution and Second Amendment rights.” Allen said that all 17 Nevada sheriffs have signed the letter.
Principe voiced the concern the group has regarding the lack of communication between the Sheriff and the community, informing citizens about not only the meeting with other sheriffs and its resulting letter but that when the Sheriff did respond it was weeks after the fact and done face to face with the citizens who elected him.
She said the Sheriff chose to post the information on Facebook.
“The problem with that is,” Principe said, “Sheriff Allen didn't reach out to the community and let us know these things.” If he had, she said, many of the fears the community had regarding the gun legislation could have been addressed.
Sheriff Allen said the events during that time were developing far too quickly to make a solid statement.
“If you look back on everything that happened during the legislative session, every time a sheriff would speak, the legislature would develop a new law against whatever was said. So without saying it, I was hoping people would just let the legislature get out so they couldn't develop any other laws that would hurt all the sheriffs in the long run.”
The group requested that Sheriff Allen hold a meeting, to which he agreed to do. The purpose of such a meeting, according to the group’s statement, is so the “citizens who elected him could ask questions and receive clear answers about their many concerns, and where he stood on issues.”
Acting Commission Chairman Ken Tipton asked Sheriff Allen to work with the County’s District Attorney to draft a resolution for a future commission meeting.
According to Humboldt County District Attorney Michael MacDonald, the District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office and County Manager Dave Mendiola have been in discussion over the last few months to come up with a proper response to the firearm legislation.
MacDonald said that part of the strategy to formulate such response included researching what other counties had done. MacDonald said they had gathered samples from other counties “to see what some of the sister counties were doing, what kind of concerns they were trying to address in their resolutions [and] if they were passing resolutions or even discussion such a resolution.”
MacDonald pointed out that Lander County’s resolution not only addressed the Second Amendment but also address Fourth Amendment rights, while re-emphasize the official oath that all elected officials take to uphold the US Constitution.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. “Some of the concerns,” MacDonald said, “of the gun owners is … it's one thing when you're talking about transferring [firearms] or some of the other regulations, but what about the rights that we have as far as protection of our homes from illegal searches and the like? My personal preference — I like the Lander County approach to also bring up the Fourth Amendment as part of the discussion as well.”
Commission agreed with MacDonald and Commission Tipton said it was time to “move forward with something so that we have something for our citizen to know where we stand.”
MacDonald agreed, adding “I would also emphasize that I think it's important for the citizens to reach out to our legislators as well.” The District Attorney stated how very different the rural lifestyle is from that of the urban centers in other parts of the state. “Some of the views and thoughts on various things are completely different as it relates to firearms in the rural,” he said. “I think we have more folks that are involve with recreational or hunting activities that use firearms. I'm talking about the trap shooting or we have 4H shooting programs and kids from Humboldt County have been competing in programs at a state level for years so there's many of those types of things that we feel are important.”
Commissioners directed the Sheriff, the District Attorney and the citizens group led by Dawn Principe to work together to draft a resolution for a future meeting. However, Commissioner Mike Bell pointed out that ultimately, the gun bills signed into law need to go through the democratic process to be revoked. “It needs to go back to the legislation,” Bell said. “We need to work toward that end and get it fixed and get it overturned through voting or otherwise.”