Sheriff writes to Obama on gun violence issue

<p>Steve Rogers</p>

In a Jan. 29 letter to President Barack Obama, Wallowa County Sheriff Steve Rogers – sworn into office less than one month earlier – stated his allegiance is to the U.S. Constitution and to the state of Oregon.

And without explicitly stating that he would refuse to enforce new gun control measures currently under discussion at the federal level, Rogers’ letter implies as much. Subsequently, though, in an interview with the Chieftain, the sheriff adopted a less-than-strident tone because, he explained, it was too early to tell what would be included in upcoming legislation.

Rogers’ letter to the president reads, in part: “I take honor in the trust placed in me by the people who elected me very seriously. I will not violate any of their Constitutional rights and I will not be party to turning honest, law abiding, responsible gun owners into criminals because of misguided ideas about what the real issues are.”

A federal push to reinstitute a now-expired ban on assault weapon sales, reduce the allowable capacity of ammunition clips, and close a private sales loophole in the requirement for buyer background checks came after a lone gunman massacred 20 young children and six employees Dec. 14 at an elementary school in Sandy Hook, Conn. While closing the background checks loophole is seeing fairly wide support, the equipment-related restrictions are a much tougher sell, drawing heat from the National Rifle Association and others. In Oregon, at least a half-dozen sheriffs have vowed not to enforce an assault weapons ban, if one is enacted.

Rogers, in an interview conducted three days after the Obama letter was mailed, said, “This is a people issue, not a gun control issue.”

In his letter, Rogers expresses his concern about the mental health system currently operating in the U.S. “The lack of resources available to citizens with mental health disorders is appalling,” Rogers said.

To Rogers’ thinking, the current public outcry in defiance of potential gun control measures may be premature. He said there’s not enough information available upon which to make educated decisions.

“People are in panic mode now, and yet there’s no legislation to discuss,” the sheriff says.

Rogers sees some generic positives in the package suggested by Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama, and yet asks, in all sincerity, “Where will the money come from? Will we just continue to roll the printing presses and go farther and farther into debt?”

In the final sentence of his letter to President Obama, Rogers offers “to serve on any committee or advisory board.”

The sheriff says he spent days crafting the letter to best communicate his views.

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