Oak Harbor councilmember sparks gun control debate

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CouncilOAK HARBOR — A failed attempt to ban firearms from city council meetings in Oak Harbor has thrust the Whidbey Island town into the national gun control spotlight.

During a public meeting on Jan. 15, councilmember Rick Almberg proposed that guns be banned from the council chamber after an Army vet stated that he was carrying a concealed weapon during a public comment period.

Lucas Yonkman had gone to the meeting after a friend notified him that the council would be discussing an ordinance currently banning firearms in public parks.

The council decided to table the issue, but Yonkman was moved to testify after another person said they didn’t feel safe at a previous meeting where a few citizens were carrying concealed weapons.

“He was speaking of how terrified he was and where we should and should not be able to carry firearms and how dangerous it is and I just felt like I needed to say something reasonable to the contrary,” Yonkman said.

Yonkman is no stranger to firearms. He was served as infantryman in Afghanistan until his unit was struck by an IED. The attack left Yonkman with injuries to his neck and back.

While addressing the council on the importance of the Second Amendment, Yonkman told councilmembers that he was a professional with a weapon and he carried a weapon every day, mainly for the purpose of protecting other people.

Almberg directed Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley to ask Yonkman if he was carrying a gun at the time.

Mayor Dudley deferred the topic of questioning to interim city attorney Grant Weed, who advised the mayor that public comment period was usually reserved for citizens to ask questions of the council and not the other way around.

The legality of that question has since been called into question, but Yonkman voluntarily answered Almberg, replying that he had a CCL and was indeed armed.

Almberg proposed a motion that all firearms be turned over to the Chief of Police or the police department before entering council chambers. The motion was seconded and moved to the floor for discussion and a vote, where it was eventually defeated by a vote of 4-2.

Not pleased with the results, Almberg informed Mayor Dudley of his intent to leave the meeting and walked out of the council chambers.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Dudley apologized to Yonkman, saying he felt safer knowing the disabled vet was armed.

“If an elected official felt a threat, it wouldn’t be coming from the likes of this disabled vet, it would be coming from someone else, most likely someone who obtained a weapon illegally,” said Dudley.

Dudley said part of the oath councilmembers are sworn to take requires them to uphold the laws of both the U.S. and state constitutions, something he said Almberg’s motion failed to recognize.

“I think it was an opportunity for one councilmember to use it as a soapbox to try to make a statement,” Dudley said. “Based on the overwhelming response, I think it backfired.”

Dudley says his office has received thousands of emails and phone calls from people all over the world who watched a clip of the meeting on YouTube. As of Sunday, the video had received more than 80,000 views.

Dudley said most of the comments have been positive, mostly from people thanking him for defending Yonkman.

“Here’s an individual that we shouldn’t be disarming, here’s an individual that we should be thanking,” Dudley said.

Yonkman admits that the YouTube clip thrust him into the national spotlight, making him a face for gun right advocates. It’s a responsibility he takes very seriously.

“It’s not about popularity with me, it’s about sending that right message and doing something good for my country,” he said. “I definitely didn’t wake up on the 15th thinking that this was going to be the result.”

Mayor Dudley said the council plans to take up the park ordinance once again during their Feb. 5 meeting. He expects it to be a packed house.

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  • BB Daisy

    So, Mr Yonkman says he carries to protect others? He's not a policeman or security guard, so he's going to make decisions about who needs protection? He's going to make up is own rules because he's got a gun? Oh yeah, another Dirty Harry fantasy. We'll be just like Pakistan.

    • Buzzby

      Mr. Yonkman doesn't have to make up his own rules. The times when it is appropriate to use deadly force in self-defense or defense of others are quite adequately spelled out in current laws. Those of us who are licensed to carry concealed are more than adequately aware of them.

      • Clam Gun

        He stated that he is protecting others, not himself. Just a vigilante, like the KKK, someone who takes the law into his/her own hands by trying and/or punishing another person without any legal authority. Which law enforcement agency does he work for?

        • RKS

          So when he is in a gas station paying for his gas and an armed robber come in the door waving a gun, maybe even fires a shot or two at random, you are saying he wouldn't be justified in shooting the bad guy and saving not only himself but the other people there? Your statement shows your ignorance. Best to just not post replies.

        • Kyle

          The KKK, really??? Those people are criminals, not vigilantes. Before you try to make a point check your arguement to make sure you don't sound like such an idiot.

        • Danny Weakland

          We have a moral obligation living in a societal enviroment to protect our fellow man. It has been upheld in several Supreme court decisions that the police do not have a legal obligation to defend you. Look these up for yourself. Warren v dc. Castle Rock v. Gonzales, No. 04-278 There are too many of these to post. YOU have to defend yourself . OR you will be a chalk mark on the street.

    • KKing

      Carry conceal permits are about personal and public protection. Ask any police officer how long it takes them to respond to a dangerous situation and whether or not they would prefer to take care of a situation for someone, or that the people in trouble were educated and responsible enough to defend and protect themselves. The truth of the matter is… not knowing how to protect yourself is irresponsible… and wanting someone else to put their life on the line for your safety is selfish. Criminals target no gun zones for a reason… because they are sitting ducks and they know that by the time there is a response… the damage will already be done. I am a legal conceal permit holder…. I am a mother… and I would willingly defend and protect my family, myself, and anyone around me if need be. Pakistan is far from a free country… the reason we are free is because we believe in self defense and independence… and being the sister of Mr. Yonkman… I can tell you that there wasn't a night that we didn't wish he was home safe instead of defending freedom for people like you… but we are so happy that he made it home safe and is still willing to defend the beliefs he has already sacrificed so much for. I am proud of him every day. Weapons safety, education, and training is far from "making up your own rules". It's being responsible. Take a moment to listen to yourself… do a little research… and google how many crimes, personal attacks, and lives lost are prevented by responsible civilian gun owners every year. A whole ton more than your attitude has. Do us all a favor and get yourself a Tshirt that says "all trained conceal weapons holders, please do not bother to defend me with your Dirty Harry gun complex in the case that someone tries to attack, rape, rob, or kill me, I don't appreciate you defending me if you're not a police officer or security guard"

  • AB Daisy

    Calm down Mrs Daisy, It's his right, and it seems to me your the one watching to many movies, as your making the movie analogy. Also some respect is in order, he was protecting and serving our country so you can be an insufferable …. well I'm sure with your very argumentative Dirty Harry comment, you can fill in the blank.

  • Matt

    If your in a public place one day standing next to mr Yonkers and someone walks in with one of them illegally obtained guns and opens fire. You want him to protect your butt or to just walk away? You are going to be begging him to return fire and protect you. So in all reality you are a flaming hypocrat on the gun control issue. Only when it’s convienent do you want one around. By the way, most police officers fire their weapons only once a year for their qualifications. Private citizens are better trained and better prepared due to practice more often.

  • Charles Whitman

    The average person is sick of the self righteous NRA BS. Just because a paranoid person carries a gun, it sure as hell doesn't mean the gun owner will make the right choices for the rest of us. He's not in law enforcement, so why does he need to carry into a public meeting? No good reason.

    • Matt

      In 2005 The Supreme Court ruled that the police did not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm. So with thisbeng said I blieve it is the right of every citizen to be able to choose whether or not they wish to carry a firearm.

  • Mr Holmes

    Have you checked out law enforcement lately go to youtube if your not in denial of the truth here is the link police brutallity and you will see clearly what our law enforcement has been up to.

    copy and paste to your browser or go to youtube and type police brutallity. as for government workers even trying to go against the 2nd amendment is against an oath they swore to uphols just to be in that position and have failed and are guilty of HIGH TREASON! That is the law and is being violated. If you still fail to see then my friend you must be one of the true terrorist