By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on February 4, 2020
After hearing impassioned arguments on both sides from two dozen speakers during public comment period, the Dare County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution expressing its support for the U.S. Constitution and specifically, the Second Amendment, at its Feb 4. meeting. The vote was 6-0 with Commissioner Jim Tobin not in attendance.
The resolution, authored by Board Vice-Chair Wally Overman, expressed support for the U.S. Constitution in general while also vowing to “oppose any and all attempts to infringe upon these rights and freedoms, including the right to keep and bear arms, as defined in the Second Amendment.”
The resolution stopped short of declaring Dare County a Second Amendment Sanctuary — as a number of communities have recently done, particularly in response to a series of gun control laws being promoted in the Virginia legislature.
The issue reached the board at its Jan. 21 meeting when Rob Rollason, during public comment, introduced a resolution backing the Second Amendment that he asked the board to address. Rollason is running in the Republican primary against incumbent NC District 6 Representative Bobby Hanig. And he and Hanig were among the first three speakers during public comment on Feb. 4.
Of the 24 speakers who took to the podium in the commissioners’ meeting room to discuss the resolution, the sentiment was split between 14 speakers who opposed it and 10 who supported it. On some occasions, applause greeted their remarks.
Hanig, speaking first, declared that the Second Amendment “is not for hunting…not for recreation. This is about our God-given right to defend ourselves against a tyrannical government.
During his remarks, Rollason thanked the Dare Commissioners for “taking a stand [for] freedom.”
Several of the speakers opposing the resolution asked why it was necessary and warned that the issue was politically divisive.
“What exactly does this resolution mean?” asked Susan Merrill. “Is it just an attempt to stir the pot on gun control?” A similar point was argued by Tom Murphy who said, “Why do this…Is it the election year. Is it an appeal to a base?”
David Morris added that “it’s been an extraordinary gift to live in a county where people work across party lines…I fear that this resolution…seemingly innocuous in [the] wording, is not bi-partisan.”
At time, passions were inflamed. Speaking against the resolution, Nellie Healy grew emotional when she talked about the toll from gun violence. “Where are we as a people?” she asked, angrily declaring that, “You’re not bringing this crap here, Mr. Overman.”
Also opposing the resolution, Judy Lotas bemoaned the fact that her grandson has to “go through all these duck and dive drills” at school as part of safety exercises in case of a mass shooter. “That’s all we’re after,” she said, “common sense laws that protect people.”
Like some others who expressed support for the resolution, Randy Knight cited the number of crimes stopped by people carrying guns. Responding to concerns about guns being used in domestic violence, he added: “Women who are being abused, I wholeheartedly support them having a firearm and protecting themselves.”
Other warned of a slippery slope toward eliminating all gun rights. “Registration is the first step to confiscation” declared Don DeRasmo.
For his part, Outer Banks Restaurant Association President Dan Lewis, after stating his belief that “this is not the venue for this discussion,” asked Overman to take the resolution off the table for now.
When it came time for the commissioners to vote, each of them discussed the decision to support the measure, but in different tones and for some different reasons.
Ervin Bateman described losing friends to gun violence, saying, “I hate guns, I despise guns…in the hands of people who should not have them.” While he said he would not support a resolution that made Dare County a Second Amendment Sanctuary community, he added that “this has to be the most non-partisan board I’ve served on.”
Commissioner Danny Couch, acknowledging the passions on the issue, said “It is divisive. It is controversial. It is an election season folks…everything is over the top.” Still he stated that the resolution itself “has been watered down. It’s been made as bland as it could be.”
In his remarks, Overman said that it was “obvious…the Second Amendment is under attack…This resolution is not a knee-jerk reaction. It proactively tells the governor and [General] Assembly that North Carolina is not Virginia.”
But in his comments before voting for the resolution, Board Chair Bob Woodard downplayed events in Virginia as a catalyst for the resolution, noting that the process was put in motion by Rollason’s request at the previous meeting.
“It’s emphatic that our board respond to any and all issues brought before our board,” he said. “This is not a partisan issue.” A military veteran, Woodard added that, “I hate guns. I don’t want any part of a gun. But this is not about me. It’s about the Second Amendment.”