The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 17, 2013

Sheriffs, state lawmakers push back on gun control



GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — From Oregon to Mississippi, President Barack Obama's proposed ban on new assault weapons and large-capacity magazines struck a nerve among rural lawmen and lawmakers, many of whom vowed to ignore any restrictions — and even try to stop federal officials from enforcing gun policy in their jurisdictions.

"A lot of sheriffs are now standing up and saying, 'Follow the Constitution,'" said Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson, whose territory covers the timbered mountains of southwestern Oregon.

But their actual powers to defy federal law are limited. And much of the impassioned rhetoric amounts to political posturing until — and if — Congress acts.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said Wednesday it's unlikely an assault weapons ban would actually pass the House of Representatives. Absent action by Congress, all that remains are 23 executive orders Obama announced that apply only to the federal government, not local or state law enforcement.

Gun advocates have seen Obama as an enemy despite his expression of support for the interpretation of the Second Amendment as a personal right to have guns. So his call for new measures — including background checks for all gun buyers and Senate confirmation of a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — triggered new vows of defiance.

In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, urged the Legislature to make it illegal to enforce any executive order by the president that violates the Constitution.

"If someone kicks open my door and they're entering my home, I'd like as many bullets as I could to protect my children, and if I only have three, then the ability for me to protect my family is greatly diminished," Bryant said. "And what we're doing now is saying, 'We're standing against the federal government taking away our civil liberties.'"

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