Gun owners’ rights a heated topic in public comment

LEWISTOWN – The rights of gun ownership and possible government efforts to seize people’s firearms was a point of sometimes heated discussion during the public comment period of the Mifflin County Commissioners business meeting on Thursday.

Several members of the Mifflin County Tea Party Patriots organization were on hand to ask the commissioners to adopt a resolution they drew up supporting the right of gun ownership in the county.

All three commissioners stated they are in favor of Second Amendment rights with two of them saying they are avid gun owners and hunters.

However, they did not adopt the Tea Party resolution, stating it was not the proper vehicle.

Commissioner Mark Sunderland, in addressing the group’s concerns, said, “There appears to be some sort of misconception here that this board wants to take your guns away. There’s no authority here to do so. I have guns. I hunt and I have a permit to carry a weapon. We’re not in any way, shape or form of ever supporting gun control.”

Spokesperson for the Tea Party Patriots, Lisa Nancollas, said by adopting the resolution, the commissioners would “allow community officials to know that Mifflin County is behind gun rights and not going to give that up.”

Another member of the group, Melissa Koch, said adopting the resolution “would give us a little extra protection. We believe in our gun rights and we’re afraid they’ll (government officials) come and take them away. Mifflin Countians want this added little protection.”

Ed Fike, another member of the group, stated, “I’m a gun owner and a hunter. It scares me with all the push from government on gun control. I’d like you to look at our resolution and sign it so these upper levels of government know that we’re pushing back.”

Addressing Nancollas, Commissioner Otis Riden noted, “I’ve owned guns since before you were born. I’ve seen a dozen moves calling for gun control. It never goes. I have faith in the United States government and the Constitution to say it’s a right to bear arms. I think we have enough controls in this country. I just don’t think signing a resolution is going to help. A piece of paper does not do anything for me. I have faith in the United States and our county and I don’t need a piece of paper.”

Commissioner Kevin Kodish added, “I just think the vehicle’s wrong. I’ll gladly sign a petition. I support the right to bear arms. You’re asking us to sign a resolution is the wrong vehicle. Resolutions are for county business.”

Riden said he always keeps a finger on this subject, noting, “I don’t want anyone telling me what to do with my guns. I don’t see a need to sign a resolution but bring a petition here and I’ll sign it gladly. In fact, I’ll even get you more signers.”

Sunderland then related a story he read recently that notes the state of Wisconsin has enough gun owners to constitute the fifth largest army in the world. “It would be that difficult to take guns away from all those people and I’m not even talking about all the other states,” he commented.

Kodish said the best way to get this issue heard is for citizens to bombard their representatives in Congress and tell them their views.

“It’s well proven that legislators listen when they hear from their constituents,” Kodish said. “The biggest impact is if they get flooded with individually sent messages. Bombard them with this stuff. When they get volumes from individuals, that’s most impactful.”