No government jurisdiction has made such a threat, however, the association acted in response to Obama’s recent proposals about ways to reduce gun violence in the nation, said Grand County Sheriff Steve White, one of 28 sheriffs who support the Jan. 17 letter.
White said the association wants to send the message that any changes in gun laws should be done through legislation, not by executive order. Approving the letter is an example of free speech rights, White added.
“Every sheriff has the right to speak and do what they think is best for their constituents,” he said. The sheriff said he will be glad to discuss the issue with anyone who wants to call his office.
San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge also signed on to the letter.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder is the only Utah sheriff not backing the association’s stance. Winder is not a member of the association, but said he wouldn’t support the letter even if he were.
Winder called the letter unnecessary and “confrontational” in tone, saying he believes constituents in his county would agree.
The letter states, “… as the duly-elected sheriffs of our respective counties, we will enforce the rights guaranteed to our citizens by the Constitution. No federal official will be permitted to descend upon our constituents and take from them what the Bill of Rights – in particularly Amendment II – has given them.
“We, like you, swore a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and we are prepared to trade our lives for the preservation of its traditional interpretation.”
James Robertson, assistant executive director of the association, said the decision to send the letter was made Jan. 16 during a regularly schedule association meeting in Provo. Sheriffs who weren’t at the meeting, including White, received a copy of the proposed letter by email and replied as to their support or opposition, he said.
Summit County Sheriff David Edmunds, association president, said the state’s sheriffs are “adamant about preserving the integrity of our Constitution. We are not bound to enforce executive orders.”
Some of Obama’s proposals are good, Edmunds said. Those include additional background checks for the mentally ill and keeping guns out of the hands of felons.
But the association believes reviving the former ban on assault weapons would violate the Second Amendment, Edmunds said. Also, he said there is no need to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines.
“That has been tried and it’s a failure,” Edmunds said.
In a related action, state Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, told The Times-Independent he will introduce legislation next week authorizing Utah sheriffs to arrest federal officials who try to take guns from Utah residents.
“My efforts began after the Connecticut tragedy when I saw the frenzy building regarding gun control measures,” Greene said. “They think they can steamroll over states’ rights.”
Asked whether he believes gun confiscation might occur soon, Greene said, “Not initially. Not in the immediate future. But if anyone tried to enforce federal law that conflicts with state law, that would constitute a third degree felony with a maximum of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
“We know what is best for our citizens and we will regulate as needed to protect public health and safety.”
The sheriffs’ association letter begins by saying the elected sheriffs of Utah “are literally heartbroken for the loved ones of the murdered victims in Connecticut.” It mentions that Utah is not immune from the same type of violence, referring to the 2007 Trolley Square murders in which five people died at a Salt Lake City shopping mall.
“With the number of mass shootings America has endured, it is easy to demonize firearms; it is also foolish and prejudiced,” the Utah Sheriff’s Association letter continued. “Firearms are nothing more than instruments, valuable and potentially dangerous, but instruments nonetheless.”
The letter calls on Obama to “… please remember the Founders of this great nation created the Constitution, and its accompanying Bill of Rights, in an effort to protect citizens from all forms of tyrannical subjugation.”
Two other developments related to the gun issue also occurred this week, according to Salt Lake City news sources. U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, reintroduced legislation requiring ratings on video games and instituting fines for sales to underage children. State Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, introduced a bill to allow Utah residents who are 21 or older and have no criminal convictions to carry a concealed firearm without a permit.