Sheriff opposes gun control legislation in letter to Biden

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey has expressed his opposition to gun control legislation in letters he sent to both Vice President Joe Biden and California Senator Diane Feinstein.

Lopey said he questions the constitutionality of proposed gun control laws, not just under the second amendment, but also under the fifth amendment requiring due process.

“I don't know what laws are going to be passed so I reserve my opinion on that issue until I see what is legislated,” Lopey said Monday morning.

In an article in last week’s paper about the recent gun rally held in Yreka, Lopey was quoted saying, “I have no intention of taking guns away from law-abiding citizens, enforcing unconstitutional federal laws or infringing upon the constitutional rights of Siskiyou County citizens.”

After a Mount Shasta citizen interpreted that to mean the Sheriff would refuse to enforce a law with which he disagrees and wondered if the newspaper had accurately reported his intent, Lopey was asked what he meant.

He said it’s his job to “uphold and defend the constitution,” but he opposes any laws that violate the constitution of the United States and “the freedoms of the citizens he serves.”

Lopey said sheriffs have “a lot of latitude” in what federal laws they enforce because they leave that to federal peace officers.

“However, state laws, if passed through the legislature and signed by the Governor, are different than federal laws and sheriffs are bound by both the federal and state constitutions to enforce these laws. In other words, even if I think a state law is unconstitutional or foolish, I must, in most cases, investigate such laws and make a requisite recommendation to the Siskiyou County District Attorney whether or not charges should be filed – a final decision which is ultimately made by the district attorney's office.

“I will stand up for what I think is right and I will fight to prevent unconstitutional laws from being passed,” Lopey said.

He said he believes some of the research lawmakers are using is flawed, including statistics cited by Feinstein regarding the number of deaths attributed to assault-type firearms.

Lopey said his own research has led him to believe that taking guns away from “law abiding citizens” will not lead to a decrease in crime. He also believes there are already many state laws that address this topic and more are not needed.

Following is a verbatim transcript of Lopey’s letter to Vice President Biden:

Dear Mr. Vice President:

The purpose of this letter is to advise you that as the duly-elected Sheriff-Coroner of Siskiyou County, California I am strongly opposed to your proposals to violate the constitutional rights of the citizens I serve by infringing upon their 2nd Amendment rights. As you are aware, public servants like us swear an oath to uphold and defend the United States Constitution. I took a similar oath when I worked for the Vacaville Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and as my county’s Sheriff-Coroner.

I also took a similar oath as a United States Marine during the Vietnam Era and later, when I served as a commissioned officer in the United States Army National Guard and Army Reserve. I have a “Certificate of Appreciation” signed by President Obama for my 30 years of commissioned service in the military. I once saw you in person, when you visited Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq, while I was serving there as a brigade executive officer. I had nearly 38 years active and reserve service in the military and have served in law enforcement for about 35 years. I think I have earned the right to provide you my views on the topic of gun control.

I can assure you that most law enforcement professionals, especially at the street level, will tell you that your idea of robbing honest, law-abiding citizens of their 2nd Amendment rights will not prevent violent acts and will actually increase “victimization” because you are essentially disarming good citizens and their right and capacity to defend themselves and their families from predators in society. Additionally, none of the recent tragedies committed by armed criminals, including the Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT shootings could have been prevented by gun-control measures since these violent offenders were not eligible to possess firearms. I am flabbergasted by the hundreds of federal and state gun-control laws already in existence. The answer to violent crime is multi-faceted and should not result in more gun-control measures.

We have enough gun laws and should vigorously enforce the laws which already exist and at the same time improve mental health care services and deal with related societal causation factors.

I am extremely disappointed that many elected representatives practice such a disregard for the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights; moreover, what happened to the Supreme Law of the Land? The United States Supreme Court has affirmed a citizens’ fundamental right to legally bear arms. A recent example of this can be found in Supreme Court Cases District of Columbia vs. Heller and McDonald vs. Chicago. In the Heller case, the majority opinion affirmed that the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes - most notably for self-defense within the home.

I have researched this topic throughout my career, which includes work locations in Los Angeles and Oakland, California. It is ironic that the cities with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation also have the highest murder rates (e.g., Chicago, Illinois and Washington, DC). I have also researched the high crime rates in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. For example, in Australia, where most guns have been banned, crimes of violence with firearms and property crimes such as burglaries and thefts are sky-rocketing.

It is apparent that any research your committee undertook during the short time period since the tragic shooting in Newtown has not been adequate to justify the disintegration of the 2nd Amendment or the disarming of citizens we are supposed to serve and we are contemplating a course of action which will deprive them of personal property without due process. It appears to me and most citizens that I talk to that any federal legislation or executive orders enacted to violate the constitutional rights of the citizens I serve will be done while attempting to exploit the tragic and needless deaths of innocent victims by advocating the enactment of laws which will invariably penalize every hard-working, law-abiding citizen from possessing firearms or ammunition magazines they are entitled to own pursuant to the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

I am opposed to this usurpation of the constitutional rights of my citizens and will oppose any attempt to impose unconstitutional provisions on the fine citizens of Siskiyou County. Our citizens deserve much more than what they are getting from their elected representatives and it is time to do what is right and support them! We should punish criminals – not law-abiding citizens.

Very respectfully,

Jon E. Lopey,