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Nash board considers liberty activist's gun rights resolution

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NASHVILLE — A Spring Hope man who opposes the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and champions unfettered gun rights on Monday tried to enlist the Nash County Board of Commissioners in support of the right to carry concealed weapons.

Allen Chesser, who lost a Republican primary challenge in 2018 against U.S. Rep. George Holding, submitted a two-page draft resolution at the county board’s regular monthly meeting he said he wrote in February because he wants to “win back a portion of liberty that has been stolen from the people.”

The lengthy resolution asks commissioners to reaffirm their oaths of office to uphold both the state and national constitutions, cites Supreme Court precedents and argues that a 1970 amendment to the state constitution on North Carolinians’ right to bear arms violates the Second and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The resolution specifically targets language in the amendment that says, “Nothing herein shall justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons, or prevent the General Assembly from enacting penal statutes against that practice.”

The resolution asks commissioners to “affirm their opposition” to any legislation or executive order “that infringes upon the Second and 14th Amendment rights of the people” as the court has defined them.

It also commits the county to “withhold county funding or monies from any and all offices or departments used for the purpose of violating those rights” and to “affirm our support and desire” to strike the offending section from the state constitution.

Chesser, acknowledging the resolution was “a mouthful,” said he wanted it “to have a measurable reaction by commissioners, something that has teeth… that you’re wiling to stand beside us to protect our rights.”

Acknowledging their oaths and noting that citizens have the right to carry concealed weapons with proper permits, commissioners expressed some puzzlement over what Chesser expected of them.

“Where do you intend this to go?” Commissioner Fred Belfield asked.

“I intend this to be a conversation starter at the state level,” Chesser said.

“I think we’ve done a good job of doing that (observing their oaths) and I don’t see the need for this,” Belfield said.

Despite the board’s partisan makeup, board Chairman Robbie Davis said, “We generally operate in a nonpartisan manner at this level. What is your primary reason for this resolution?”

“My primary intent was the growing sentiment of enshrining the Second Amendment and 14th Amendment rights,” Chesser said, “that they won’t stand for the rights of the people to be eroded.”

Davis asked County Attorney Vince Durham his opinion of the document.

“I don’t have any problem with the whereases,” Durham said, “but you’ve already promised under oath to protect the Constitution. I do have concerns about you withholding county funds and wanting to strike a portion of the state constitution.”

He suggested passing a resolution encouraging a change to the state constitution instead of telling the legislature to strike the language. 

County Manager Zee Lamb asked Chesser for examples of infringed gun rights.

“It would be the red flag laws that were considered, preemptively restricting gun ownership from persons deemed dangerous to themselves or others,” Chesser said.

Despite some reservations, Chesser’s draft resolution caught the interest of the board, where four of the seven members are conservative Republicans.

Commissioner Wayne Outlaw said he hadn’t seen Chesser’s draft resolution before it was placed on the agenda, but noted that if the state could deny his right to carry a concealed weapon, “if that’s the case, I have a problem with that.”

“I don’t think we as a board should take away needed funding,” Outlaw said, “but the resolution has teeth, and maybe with tweaking some verbiage it might have some support.”

“The state constitution cannot supersede the federal constitution, which includes the Second and 14th amendments,” Belfield insisted.

Davis suggested commissioners table the motion and asked Belfield, Outlaw, Durham and Chesser “to see what common ground” they can find and “bring it back to us in August.” He asked Outlaw to chair the ad hoc group.

“I’d be honored,” Outlaw said and the board voted unanimously to table the resolution.

Chesser, 35, a Bunn High graduate who was active with the Franklin County GOP, served in Iraq with the U.S. Army National Guard and in law enforcement.

In a candidate profile interview in 2018, Chesser described himself as a “Christian constitutional conservative. That’s pro-gun pro-life, limited government, a small influence on day-to-day life for middle America.”

On a personal website, he not only posted the proposed Nash County resolution, he also posted a resolution, with similar language, that he sent to state legislators this spring against “unilateral government overreaches.”

In his state resolution, he strongly opposed Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive orders responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with public health restrictions as in “direct conflict with individual rights protected by, and government limitations in, the Constitution of the United States and the state of North Carolina.” 

It calls upon the General Assembly to oppose them and to “move to nullify or make void any government action intended for the purpose of, or resulting in, violating those rights.”