The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 30, 2013

Raleigh sheriff says he won’t enforce federal gun laws

Even if a handful of what he described as “loud morons” in Congress succeed in limiting the 2nd Amendment by banning semi-automatic rifles, don’t expect Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner to enforce it at his level of law enforcement.

What’s more, Tanner says citizens need to be armed because police are so stretched they cannot respond immediately in a domestic crisis.

“If somebody is assaulting you, I don’t care if we’re a block away and there in 30 seconds, that may not be good enough,” Tanner said Tuesday.

“Everybody, and I mean everybody, has an inherent right to be able to defend themselves. That is beyond written law. That’s the law of nature. We have an inherent right to protect ourselves.”

Tanner is convinced no such ban, already proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and others, will ever be imposed.

“I don’t think there’s anywhere near the juice,” the sheriff said. “There’s only five or six really loud morons who want to say these need to be outlawed. I don’t see any support for it and I don’t think there’s any way it could pass. But if they come in with any federal mandate to control firearms, it will not be enforced on a local level. I will not enforce that limit on our constitutional rights.”

Tanner described himself as a defender of “the entire Constitution, including the 2nd Amendment.”

By a conservative estimate, he said, there are some 120 million firearms owners in the United States, meaning confiscation of weapons would be impractical.

“If they did have the manpower and knowledge and ability to collect them, where would they store them?” he asked.

“It’s just not feasible. I don’t think that they can pass any amendment to change the Constitution. That’s one of our founding rights. If they would pass one (gun ban) and say no more semi-automatic handguns, it would have to be enforced on a federal level. I don’t think anyone at the local level would have any desire or intent to enforce it. And I don’t know how that would be enforceable, anyway.”

The stock argument advanced by gun controllers is simply this, “Guns kill people.”

“So do cars, knives, spoons,” Tanner replied.

“It’s not the pencil’s fault we misspell words. It’s not the spoon’s fault we have fat people. It’s not the gun’s fault people are shooting each other. Blaming the gun is ridiculous. I don’t hear anybody blaming cars for drunken drivers.”

Without access to firearms, gun controllers maintain, public massacres could be eliminated, but applying the same logic, Tanner said, “the best way to eliminate DUIs would be to ban cars.”

“It’s a different standard with guns,” he said.

“They’re just a tool. They don’t have any inherent personality and they’re not inherently bad, evil or mean.”

The frenzy to limit firearms and impose universal background checks stems from the December 2012 carnage inside an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead.

“If that guy had gone to that school with a pickup truck and run over those kids, even if he had run through a fence to do it, nobody would be saying, ‘Well, we don’t need pickup trucks any more. There may have been a time when we needed pickup trucks but all of our roads are paved. And if he didn’t have a truck, he couldn’t have done it, so we’re going to outlaw trucks.’ That would be absolutely ridiculous. That’s exactly what they’re trying to do with guns.”

Tanner raised another point: Gun manufacturers have told him if a ban is revived, they no longer will do business in this country, meaning such firearms no longer would be available to either military forces or law enforcement.

Firearms are needed in the hands of private citizens as a means of protecting their homes and families, the sheriff said.

“It’s incredibly stupid for anyone to assume that society has become so advanced you no longer have the need or the responsibility to protect yourself or your family, it’s a law enforcement issue,” Tanner said.

“That is absolutely not true. We’re there to support and help anyway we can. We have the most noble guys in the world who are willing to risk their lives to do it. But we will never, in any law enforcement agency, anywhere, have enough people to be able to be at every situation in a timely manner. It’s not physically possible. So, the responsibility still falls on the individual to take care of themselves.”

Tanner suggested some in Congress and elsewhere need to study American history and learn this government is a republic, not a democracy.

“People forget that,” he said.

“We swear an oath for the republic of America every day,” he said.

“It is the ‘republic for which we stand’ and it means our elected officials represent our wills, not their interests.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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