TOWANDA — Bradford County Commissioners, in a split decision Thursday, stood with local gun rights advocates by becoming the first county in Pennsylvania to declare itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County.”
The final resolution of the final commissioners meeting of the decade saw Commissioners Doug McLinko and Daryl Miller vote in favor of the measure, while Commissioner Ed Bustin voted against it.
The resolution was read by county sheriff C.J. Walters, who was vocal in his own support of the measure.
“I brought this to the county commissioners because ... the second amendment is a fast hold from more gun legislation, and I truly feel — especially in our area — our citizens don’t need more gun laws on the books,” he said. “And they need to know that our local government protects those (citizens.) So I feel that this is a good stance for our local government to send on to our state and federal officials that Bradford County does not support more prohibitions against our law abiding gun citizens, and that we support the second amendment.”
Similar resolutions are already active in 19 states, Walters noted.
“We wouldn’t have a lot of our rights if it wasn’t for the second amendment,” he added.
“The ... commissioners wish to express opposition to any law that would unconstitutionally restrict the rights under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution of the citizens of Bradford County to keep and bear arms,” the resolution stated.
Bustin explained his opposition to the resolution, noting that he only learned about the measure less than 24 hours before the meeting.
“If you had presented me with a resolution declaring us as a ‘Constitutional Sanctuary County,’ I would sign in a minute,” he said. “I just believe that all of our amendments in our Constitution deserve equal support from all of us. That’s why I took an oath of office four years ago — to support the Constitution of the state of Pennsylvania and the nation. I fully support all of the amendments, including the second amendment. I just don’t like the idea of calling (one) out, instead of saying that we’re going to support them all.”
Bustin added that he is gun owner with a carry license and uses his firearms regularly.
“I just have a philosophical issue with this particular presentation,” he noted.
McLinko and Miller echoed each other’s support for the resolution, with McLinko explaining that it comes at a time when the second amendment is under attack across the country.
“We can’t continue to just go along think that (the constitution) is made of clay. It’s made of granite,” McLinko said. “It’s just getting more insane every day, and it’s a sad thing that we even feel like we have to do this.”
“I can tell you that as we keep talking about it — our rights keep getting nibbled away at little by little, one bite at a time,” Miller stated.
Several residents came out to support the commissioners’ decision as well as the sheriff’s department.
“We appreciate you (Walters) supporting us,” one Monroeton resident said. “And the end of the day, you need to know that you have our support as well. But for what you’ve done for me and everyone else in this county, you’ve earned my respect.”
“The reason we are here today collectively is outstanding,” added Franklin Township resident Tom Blackall. “It would be proud for us to be able to send this out across the United States. This county is a leader in the state of Pennsylvania in politics, and we have one of the greatest combinations of commissioners and leadership in our sheriff.”