Published January 15, 2013
State officials in Mississippi, Oregon and Texas are vowing to fight back against any attempt by the federal government to impose new gun control laws.
The warnings come as President Obama on Wednesday unveiled a comprehensive plan to address gun violence, based on the recommendations from the Vice President Biden-led task force. The plan includes a call for legislation to ban assault weapons as well as a variety of executive actions.
But in Oregon, Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller wrote a letter to Biden Monday saying his department will not enforce any new gun laws it considers unconstitutional.
Mueller said politicians are "attempting to exploit the deaths of innocent victims" by supporting laws that would harm law-abiding Americans. The sheriff said he took an oath to support the Constitution, and laws preventing citizens from owning certain semi-automatic firearms and ammunition magazines would violate their rights.
"We are Americans," Mueller wrote. "We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws."
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant also said Wednesday that he wants the state to resist any presidential order that might restrict gun rights.
"I am asking that you immediately pass legislation that would make any unconstitutional order by the president illegal to enforce in Mississippi by state or local law enforcement," Bryant, a Republican, wrote in a letter to Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn, who are also Republicans.
Meanwhile, 1200 WOAI reports that in Texas, Republican state Rep. Steve Toth plans to introduce a bill that would make it illegal to enforce in the state any federal laws restricting semi-automatic firearms or the size of gun magazines.
Toth told 1200 WOAI that the bill would also call for felony charges to be brought against federal officials who attempt to enforce any such rules.
"If a federal official comes into the state of Texas to enforce the federal executive order, that person is subject to criminal prosecution," Toth told 1200 WOAI.
The warnings could be the first wave of state officials pushing back against Congress and the White House as they take up new gun control measures in the wake of the Connecticut mass shooting. Obama and others say new rules to at least limit the size of high-capacity magazines are overdue and could save lives.
Mueller, though, told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Albany, Ore., that he felt compelled to make his views known because sheriffs have not had much of a say on the vice president's anti-gun violence task force. Mueller said his constituents have been repeatedly asking his deputies about what will happen if new gun restrictions are adopted.
"We're restricted and prohibited from enforcing all types of federal laws, including immigration laws," he said Tuesday. "It would be unreasonable for anyone to think that I would enforce a federal firearms law."
Mueller said some other sheriffs expressed support for his stance, but he does not know of any who have pledged to take similar action in regard to potential gun laws.
Linn County is largely rural and politically conservative. Fewer than 40 percent of its registered voters supported President Barack Obama in November. Mueller said most households in the county have guns.
Though the letter might add fuel to an already hot topic, Mueller said he wishes people could have a civilized discussion about the issue, rather than resort to threats and name-calling. He said he doesn't think the vice president is a bad person; he just doesn't like the path he appears to be on regarding gun laws.
"We don't have to be jerks to each other over it," he said. "If old Joe wants to come out here to Linn County, we'd have a good conversation."
The Associated Press contributed to his report.