It’s been three weeks since an Oak Harbor city council member started a national controversy by trying to kick out a wounded Army veteran who was legally carrying a weapon during a council meeting.
Councilmember Rick Almberg then walked out.
The council was met by 160 people Tuesday night, many who were packing heat.
There were handguns in holsters and rifles slung over shoulders and an unknown number of people concealing their weapons as the Oak Harbor City Council met. Many attended the meeting to show support for veteran Lucas Yonkman who Councilmember Almberg tried to have kicked out of City Hall last month, including Joe Hawkins who openly mocked him. “Mr. Almberg I just want you to know that I have a concealed ham sandwich right here I don’t want you to get up and walk away,” he chuckled.
Most attended the meeting to oppose the city’s ban on guns in parks and the marina. The Second Amendment Foundation had threatened to sue if the ordinance wasn’t overturned.
Sandy Peterson spoke out against the ordinance. “If the city council members are intimidated by people exercising their Second Amendment rights to bear arms, perhaps they need to examine what it is about that that makes them uncomfortable,” she said.
William Frail had an M-1 rifle on his shoulder as he testified. “Sir, my mother was Jew,” he said. “My family went to the chambers. I will not go into the night quietly while these two ask me to board the train.”
But not everyone spoke in favor of overturning the ban. Shane Hoffmire doesn’t believe having guns in parks is a good idea. “While I support the Second Amendment and citizen rights to bear arms, I strongly believe guns do not belong in public spaces,” he said.
Pam Fick also spoke out in support of the ban. “There are those here tonight who will argue that more guns in more hands and more places makes us safer,” she said. “More guns in more hands and more places didn’t make people safer. It just made people more dead.”
Lucas Yonkman, the man at the center of this gun debate in Oak Harbor, also addressed the council.
“I come to you tonight with a heavy heart,” Yonkman said. “I see a beautiful country divided and conflicted. I see a constitution being eroded, and the rights so many have fought and died for totally lost. I see men and woman who are elected leaders pushing personal agendas.”
Yonkman believes the answer to mass shootings and community violence will be found in treating those with mental illness, instead of taking guns away.
The city council eventually voted to overturn the ban, which the interim city attorney had told the members was unconstitutional. The council did not call for the resignation of fellow member Almberg, which a few people had called for.
After the meeting, he said he hopes the city can move past this and get onto more important business.