CINCINNATI - When President Barack Obama unveiled his gun control initiatives Wednesday , the nationwide debate of Second Amendment rights came immediately to a local level.
Two Tri-State sheriffs said they received numerous e-mails and phone calls from constituents related to their opinions on these initiatives, and they shared their positions in released statements this week.
Clermont County Sheriff A.J. Rodenberg, a longtime member of the NRA and a local gun club, said in a statement that it is his responsibility to enforce the laws of Ohio and the United States, and to support the Constitutions of both the U.S. and Ohio, not to interpret the laws.
Sheriff Rodenberg offered a legal interpretation distributed to the Ohio sheriffs by the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association: "Enacted laws are presumed to be constitutional until such time as a court with proper jurisdiction rules otherwise.”
The sheriff did note that federal laws enacted by Congress addressing gun control fall primarily under the enforcement responsibility and authority of a federal law enforcement agency, and often he may not be tasked with enforcement responsibilities, but that it is premature to comment on the possible ramifications of such laws that have not yet even materialized.
Boone County Sheriff Micahel A. Helmig, a self-claimed staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, took a more direct view of the initiatives, saying in a statement he does not believe the federal government "has the right to dictate to the states, counties or municipalities any mandate, regulation or administrative rule that violates the United States Constitution or it various amendments."
"I would view any such mandate, regulation or administrative rule illegal and refuse to carry it out," Sheriff Helmig continued.
Nationally, sheriffs and lawmakers have expressed varying opinions on the potential gun control laws, with many speaking out directly against the initiatives. Elected officials from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana were split , but most officials from the Tri-State remained silent.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from a Cleveland suburb, was supportive of the president's plan, but U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, a Republican from Indiana, said he wouldn’t support the assault weapons ban and U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, a Republican from Indiana’s 6th Congressional District, was also quick to denounce the president’s plan.
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. 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.
Mississippi's Republican governor, Phil Bryant, proposed 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.'"
Tennessee Republican state Rep. Joe Carr wants to make it a state crime for federal agents to enforce any ban on firearms or ammunition. Carr instead called for more armed guards at schools. Legislative proposals to pre-empt new federal gun restrictions also have arisen in Wyoming, Utah and Alaska.
A Wyoming bill specifies that any federal limitation on guns would be unenforceable. It also would make it a state felony for federal agents to try to enforce restrictions.
"I think there are a lot of people who would want to take all of our guns if they could," said co-sponsor Rep. Kendell Kroeker, a Republican. "And they're only restrained by the opposition of the people, and other lawmakers who are concerned about our rights."
In Minnesota, Pine County Sheriff Robin Cole sent an open letter to residents saying he did not believe the federal government had the right to tell the states how to regulate firearms. He said he would refuse to enforce any federal mandate he felt violated constitutional rights. The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, based in Fredericksburg, Texas, encourages that point of view.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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At one bar, a mixture that included rubbing alcohol and caramel coloring was sold as scotch. In another, premium liquor bottles were refilled with water - and apparently not even clean water at that.