Some Sheriffs Join Gun Control Debate; Others Urge Reasoned Approach

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RENO, NV - Some of the voices being heard in the national gun control debate are coming from law enforcement and some lining up to oppose any changes are law enforcement officials.

Last week, that number included Humboldt County Sheriff Ed Kilgore. His office issued a press release calling attention to a letter Kilgore had sent to Vice President Joe Biden, who was named to head a series of discussions on gun violence following the Connecticut school shootings.

In his letter, Sheriff Kilgore took aim at the motive behind the discussion of gun laws, calling the "very notion that enacting such new federal laws following a very emotional tragedy insulting and absurd."

Proposed changes, Kilgore said, were an assault on the Second Amendment which he says Americans believe is the "layer of security between them and government oppression."

And, he added, beyond personal opposition, he may not enforce any changes emerging from Washington, using his
discretion, possibly choosing not to enforce any new gun laws that may "appear to be unconstitutional."

"I've e seen that language before," said Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley. "These are canned letters. They are prewritten."

Haley says the letters with suggested language are being circulated by organizations opposed to any change in gun laws.

"Sheriff's look at them and decide whether or not to sign them."

Our call to Sheriff Kilgore was not returned and it's unclear what prompted him to write the letter or whether any of the language was suggested to him, but similar letters in similar language are popping up across the nation.

Most have been sent by sheriffs in rural counties in the West and South.

One organization promoting them and keeping score is the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association headed by former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack.

Mack has been an influential figure on the extreme right for years, appearing at Tea Party and John Birch Society events promoting an updated version of the anti-government Posse Commitatus movement.

His website lists 90 sheriffs across the country who have written similar letters.

Haley, the president of the Nevada Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, says Kilgore and others have every right to contact the government with their views and concerns and he says his counterparts have a role to play in the debate.

"The only thing I would ask of my counterparts do do is to be deliberative, to allow the discussion to occur, to allow it to occur in a civil, reasoned environment.

And he says no one who holds the office can pick and choose which laws to enforce or ignore.

"At the end of the day, each of our jobs as sheriffs and chiefs are to follow the law, not to create the law."

For his part, Haley says he supports the second amendment, but also common sense restrictions like background checks and closing of loopholes in the current laws.

And, he added, to prohibit the study of gun violence and to leave the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms without a director for years on end, as Congress has, is "unconscionable."