Nearly 300 people signed a public lettercalling for Grand Traverse County, Michigan, Commissioner Ron Clous to resign after he flashed a rifle during a public meeting on Wednesday.
Traverse City-based attorney Michael Naughton wrote the letter and received signatures from community leaders and local residents.
“It has become clear to me that some elected officials consider their public office a personal right rather than a privilege conferred upon them by the people,” Naughton said in the letter.
During the county commissioners’ virtual meeting on Wednesday, East Bay Township resident Keli MacIntosh spoke about her fears of Grand Traverse County as being a Second Amendment “sanctuary.”
In March, county commissioners passed a resolution that opposes “any enforcement or funding measures that would infringe on gun owners’ rights,” according to the Traverse City Ticker.
As MacIntosh spoke about her concerns regarding northern Michigan gun culture, Clous got up from his seat and returned in the videoframe with a black rifle across his chest.
Clous’ action amid the meeting gained local media attention and public backlash on social media. The letter calls for Clous to resign and for Rob Hentschel, commission chair, to resign or, at the very least, to issue a public apology.
Naughton’s letter states that under Michigan law, “a person shall not willfully and knowingly brandish a firearm in public.”
Hentschel said he disagrees with the statements in the letter because Clous had no intention to intimidate anyone, and he didn’t wave or point the gun around.
Hentschel said Clous wasn’t brandishing the gun, and that he held the weapon up for less than 7 seconds.
“The reason it was kind of an absurd thing to do is because it’s so open to interpretation. So many people would look at something like that out of context,” Hentschel said. “I wouldn’t have done that because people can take it the wrong way. Commissioner Clous is a nice old man who hardly talks at meetings, but he’s really passionate about our Second Amendment rights.”
Naughton told the Record-Eagle in Traverse City that holding a weapon where it can be seen is brandishing it.
Hentschel disagrees and said he and Clous will not resign the board of commissioners.
“I believe that all commissioners can plan to continue doing the work we’re elected to do,” Hentschel said. “Michael and his handful of supporters are not going to change that.”
During the public comment period, MacIntosh also commented about the commissioners’ attitudes toward the Proud Boys, which is a far-right, hate group with ties to Islamophobia, anti-immigration attitudes, misogyny and white supremacy, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League.
Phone calls and emails to Clous were not picked up Friday. Hentschel and Clous were recently reelected to the board. The next board meeting will happen Feb. 3 through a livestream.
Follow Slone Terranella on Twitter @SloneTerranella.