Shasta supervisors declare county a 2nd Amendment fortress in ‘war on guns’

Three protesters hold signs, one falsely claiming that that mail-in ballots are illegal.
Shasta County has become a hotbed for conservative political causes, including unproven conspiracy theories about rigged voting and assertions that American gun rights are in peril.
(Anita Chabria / Los Angeles Times)
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After gaining national attention for dumping Dominion Voting Systems and becoming the largest entity in the United States to resort to hand-counting ballots, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday waded into another issue roiling right-wing America: an unwavering defense of gun rights.

By a 4-0 vote, the board approved a resolution declaring that the county would “use all lawful means at its disposal to support and defend the Second Amendment.”

Supervisor Patrick Jones, whose day job is managing his family’s gun store in Redding, said the largely symbolic measure was necessary because the 2nd Amendment in California has been treated as a “second-class right,” with Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and other lawmakers in Sacramento making frequent efforts at stricter gun control.


The resolution had come before the board earlier this year in a more dramatic form. Jones introduced a measure in February that had been drafted by the California Rifle and Pistol Assn.

As originally drafted, the resolution called for county employees to review the county’s support for the 2nd Amendment every year. It also gave the Board of Supervisors, and county staff, “the right not to enforce” any state or federal laws that they deemed a violation of the 2nd Amendment “as originally written and intended.”

The county’s legal counsel at the time, Rubin Cruse Jr., objected to that language, advising the board that the resolution likely violated state law and risked landing the county in court. Under the state Constitution, Cruse noted, it is the judicial branch and not the Board of Supervisors that is charged with interpreting the constitutionality of laws.

County Sheriff Michael Johnson also raised concerns about the original draft. “I am a strong proponent of the 2nd Amendment,” he said, but noted that California already guarantees residents a right to bear arms through the issuance of concealed weapons permits.

“I am not scared of any of them, because I vet them. I know they are responsible citizens,” the sheriff said. But he added that without some regulatory provisions, “any armed violent felon would be able to carry a weapon” and “any 12-year-old would be able to strap on a weapon.”

Cruse advised significant changes to the original resolution, and the board ultimately deadlocked 2 to 2 on passage. Supervisors Jones and Chris Kelstrom remained committed, with Kelstrom arguing that California was waging “a war on the 2nd Amendment.”


Supervisors Tim Garman and Mary Rickert voted in opposition. Rickert, who runs a ranch in Shasta County and noted that she has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, argued that the resolution was unnecessary. Her husband “has a shotgun by the door tonight,” she said. “That shotgun is going to be there tomorrow.”

The measure failed after Supervisor Kevin Crye — normally allied with the board’s far-right majority — abstained, saying he wanted time to seek personal legal advice.

After voting to dump Dominion Voting Systems earlier this year, Shasta County officials are grappling with the complex logistics of actually hand-counting ballots in a county of 200,000 people.

April 28, 2023

The measure that came before supervisors Tuesday had been significantly reworked with the input of the county’s lawyers. (Cruse was not among them. He has since left his county job, part of a wave of top officers in Shasta who have resigned or been fired over the past year.)

The new resolution clarifies that the county intends to adhere to state and federal laws. But it also takes sharp aim at the whole concept of gun control and questions the motivations behind persistent calls from Newsom and fellow Democrats for stricter regulation for firearms.

“The Board of Supervisors believes that the California Legislature has passed laws that will be determined to be unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, and continues to pass laws that will be determined to infringe, unconstitutionally, upon people’s rights under the Second Amendment,” reads one article in the lengthy resolution.

Another questions academic studies showing that gun regulations save lives: “The Board of Supervisors believes there have been many problems with reports and studies claiming that gun laws work.”


And later: “After instances of people killing or injuring people, there is often an outcry to ‘do something’ and a calling for more restrictive gun laws, which the Board of Supervisors believes negatively infringes upon the right of law abiding citizens to bear arms.”

“Evil people kill the innocent and do damage with all kinds of instruments,” the resolution opines.

Garman and Crye voted to support the measure in its new form, along with Jones and Kelstrom. Rickert was absent, having left the meeting early because she was ill.

In Northern California’s Shasta County, where hard-right politicians are in control, the damage from lies about the trustworthiness of voting machines is playing out with real-world consequences.

March 3, 2023

Adam Winkler, the Connell Professor of Law at UCLA who has authored a book about the political battles over gun control, said the notion of “2nd Amendment sanctuaries” has become increasingly popular in rural communities in states that adopt gun safety regulations. “These are elected officials who want to make a stand in favor of the 2nd Amendment, so they’re rattling their guns,” he said.

But Winkler noted that “at the end of the day, a county cannot just decide on its own that they’re not going to obey state law.”

Some Shasta County gun owners who have been critical of the board’s embrace of a far-right agenda echoed Winkler’s perspective. Dawn Duckett called the resolution “redundant” and “unnecessary.”


“We are in full support of the 2nd Amendment,” she told the board Tuesday. “As a matter of fact, most of us are armed to the teeth.”