A Michigan county commissioner whipped out a rifle at a virtual public meeting while a woman was criticizing the Proud Boys — prompting calls for his resignation, according to a report.
Grand Traverse County Commissioner Ron Clous flashed the gun as resident Keli MacIntosh expressed fear that members of the extremist group had spoken about gun rights at a meeting back in March, according to the Record Eagle.
MacIntosh had just asked commissioners to denounce the Proud Boys during a public comment period when Clous stepped away from his webcam and returned with the weapon.
He held the rifle up briefly, then set it down without a word, causing Commission Chair Rob Hentschel to laugh.
But MacIntosh — who had just expressed concern about a potential uptick in gun violence after the US Capitol breach — said she was frightened by the move.
“This guy is in the middle of a government meeting brandishing a weapon,” MacIntosh told the paper. “Why would I not think they were trying to harm me?”
Clous later defended flashing the weapon and said he had no problem with the Proud Boys, which has been deemed an extremist group by the FBI.
People have called for the resignation of Vice Chair Ron Clous, of the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners.Grand Traverse County
“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,” he said.
Hentschel added that he saw nothing wrong with displaying a gun at a public meeting.
“I saw it across his chest and I thought it was ironic of him to do that,” Hentschel said. “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.”
In this screen grab taken from a Zoom meeting, Ron Clous holds a rifle at his home during a county commissioner meeting Wednesday, January 20, 2021, in Michigan.Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners via AP
But other commissioners jumped to MacIntosh’s defense, calling the move troubling.
“It was deeply disturbing, wildly inappropriate and needs to be investigated,” Commissioner Betsy Coffia said.
Residents — who are now circulating a petition demanding Clous resign — called the move menacing, and said it threatened freedom of speech.
“Gun owners are enraged because guns have to be used responsibly and respectfully and not at public meetings,” Traverse City attorney Michael Naughton, who drafted the petition, told the paper. “When someone responds with a firearm, it’s a huge First Amendment issue, not a gun rights issue, not a Second Amendment issue.”