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Michigan Official Faces Calls To Resign After Flashing Gun During Virtual Public Forum

Michigan Official Faces Calls To Resign After Flashing Gun During Virtual Public Forum
GTC Board/YouTube

Grand Traverse County Commissioner Ron Clous learned last week there's a time and a place to show off your rifle, and it's not during a virtual meeting of the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners.

Keli MacIntosh, a local resident, was criticizing the Proud Boys, claiming they had expressed their thoughts about gun laws at a meeting during the previous March.

MacIntosh wanted the board to denounce any affiliation with the Proud Boys and requested that they not be able to speak or receive floor time during future events, due to their extremism and their potential involvement in the storming of the Capitol.

In response to MacIntosh's concerns, Clous stepped out of view for a moment, revealing a series of taxidermy on his wall, and he returned with a rifle held across his chest. Clous held it up in the camera view for several seconds before setting it on the floor next to him, likely propped up against his leg.

Commission Chair Rob Hentschel chortled in response and covered his mouth while he laughed, all while MacIntosh was still expressing her concerns.

MacIntosh did not see the humor in the gesture, however, later stating:

"This guy is in the middle of a government meeting brandishing a weapon. Why would I not think they were trying to harm me?"

MacIntosh further clarified that she saw the weapon as a threat to her rights.

"I didn't think he was going to shoot me, obviously, but I do think his whole point was to intimidate me and threaten me and anyone else who's going to speak out ... and see if he can stir up masses of people who are just looking for things to fight about."

Clous defended his actions:

"I was going to chime in as well. I was just going to show the rifle and show that I fully support the Second Amendment, but then I opted not to ... I was in my home."

Clous later defended his actions and also said he saw no issue with the extremist group, the Proud Boys.

"The only thing I know about [the Proud Boys] is when they came and spoke to us … They were probably the most respected folks that got up and talked. They were decent guys and they treated us with respect."

Clous also later stated that he would not denounce "any" group of people, and used the NFL, Black Lives Matter, and LGBTQ as examples.

Hentschel also came to Clous's defense:

"I saw it across his chest and I thought it was ironic of him to do that. The person was talking about guns and he had one across his chest."
"I didn't see him do anything illegal or dangerous with it. He wasn't threatening or brandishing. He was just holding it."

But fellow Commissioners came to MacIntosh's defense and agreed the gesture was troubling.

Commissioner Betsy Coffia said:

"It was deeply disturbing, wildly inappropriate and needs to be investigated."

Holly T. Bird, a local attorney and activist, agreed:

"Ron Clous was seen to hold up a rifle to the camera, which I think is supportive of the Proud Boys and the insurrection, but also a threat."
"Everyone knows that if you're walking down the street and someone flashes a gun at you, it's a threat. To have a public official do that during a public meeting is horrendous."
"You don't have to be next to someone to make a threat. You can communicate in other ways, including over the internet."

Fellow citizens also began circulating a petition against Clous' continued role as a Commissioner, written by Traverse City attorney Michael Naughton, stating his act worked against the freedom of speech.

Naughton said in his statement:

"Gun owners are enraged because guns have to be used responsibly and respectfully and not at public meetings."
"When someone responds with a firearm, it's a huge First Amendment issue, not a gun rights issue, not a Second Amendment issue."

Reactions on Twitter were mixed as well, some fearful and some supportive of Clous' demonstration.

There were those who felt threatened and wanted Clous taken off the board.

Very few commented in support of Clous, but there were a few.

It's unclear at this time if Clous' actions are actively being investigated or if he will be forced to resign in response to his gun display or the active petition.

It's clear there is a mixture of feelings in response to his actions and more inevitably needs to be discussed before a decision is made.