In any other county, a resolution proclaiming a 2nd Amendment sanctuary might have been interpreted as a routine symbolic gesture allowing veterans, gun owners and sundry other “patriots” a public moment of pride in their heritage and rural lifestyle. In Shasta County, which passed such a resolution this week, there is a lot more to it.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shasta County’s Board of Supervisors has made global headlines for strange happenings and curious decisions.
There was the meeting in which local militia member Carlos Zapata told county supervisors and citizens that overcoming the supposed “oppression” unleashed by public health precautions could necessitate “blood in the streets.” There was last year’s recall of longtime conservative Supervisor Leonard Moty for not “standing up” to the state over COVID guidelines — never mind that Shasta County never really shut down commerce the way others did. There was this year’s misinformation-driven decision to remove Dominion voting machines from the county’s elections office without devising another system to take its place.
The Board of Supervisors is currently led by a 3-2 majority that is ideologically further right than anything that used to be called Republican. Its members are also extreme examples of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, whereby a lack of knowledge leads to an overestimation of one’s competence.
In dumping the voting machines, for example, the board largely dismissed county Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen’s nearly 20 years of relevant experience. A recent “elections town hall” held by Board Chair Patrick Jones did not even include a presentation from the registrar but did feature a discredited election denier.
Likewise, during the same meeting in which the board declared the county a safe space for the 2nd Amendment, it approved a 30-year agreement with a local Native American tribe to provide public safety services at a future resort casino next to Interstate 5 south of Redding. This agreement was passed without input from the county sheriff, fire chief or district attorney and without the approval of the county counsel or risk manager.
The collective dysfunction of this governing board has led to an effort to recall one narrowly elected member of the far-right majority, Kevin Crye, as well as an exodus of the county’s top leaders and talent. Since the regime change ushered in by the Moty recall, the director of the county’s health and human services agency has resigned, the county health officer has been fired (for not “keeping the county open” during COVID) and the county executive officer has left. The assistant executive officer is on leave, a deputy county executive officer has left the government and the personnel director went out on leave and then retired. Two public works directors have retired, and the county is currently seeking the third person to serve as county counsel this year.
All this provides ominous context for the resolution on gun rights, the second such measure to come before the board.
The original iteration, drafted by the local chapter of the California Rifle and Pistol Assn., attempted to imbue the Shasta County Board of Supervisors with the power to interpret the Constitution. After then-County Counsel Rubin Cruse explained to the board and its packed chambers that the courts have the authority to interpret the U.S. and California constitutions, the resolution narrowly failed.
Three weeks ago, a local online news publisher attended a publicly advertised “Citizens for Freedom” meeting in the small Shasta County town of Cottonwood. When she arrived, the meeting organizer asked her to leave. When she attempted to hold her ground, she was surrounded by several people and eventually assaulted by a secessionist militia member. Eventually, four sheriff’s deputies arrived to ask the journalist to leave.
The deputies weren’t there because of any threat posed by the reporter. They were there because they knew how many guns were likely to be in the room.
This week’s 2nd Amendment resolution was stripped of the language attempting to empower county supervisors to interpret the law and the Constitution, but it is still laden with intent to break ranks with state and federal laws surrounding gun use according to the narrow “constitutionalist” perspective promulgated by local militia groups. We can’t know what effect the supervisors’ latest questionable decision will have for the people they ostensibly represent, but we do know that it’s promoting the lawless use of firearms in a community primed for extremism and violence.
Susanne Baremore is a Redding resident and concerned citizen.