“Let me be very clear, I will not name the shooter. I will not give him the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act.”
That was Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin speaking at a news conference in which he briefed the news media about the mass killing at Umpqua Community College. He announced ten people had died during the crime, but refused to say whether the shooter was one of them.
Sheriff Hanlin is a man of strong opinions and beliefs — and some of those opinions and beliefs are about firearms. The sheriff and I have that in common.
Here’s another thing we have in common: on January 15, 2013 both Sheriff Hanlin and I were writing about guns. It was a month after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. A month after six adult school staff members and twenty children — all aged six or seven — were slaughtered in a five-minute shooting spree. Let me just repeat that bit. The victims were little kids. A month after a mentally deranged young man deliberately walked through the halls of a school shooting little kids.
It was also the day before President Obama was scheduled to propose some new executive firearm policies. Both Sheriff Hanlin and I were writing about that on the 15th of January. I was writing to mock Texas Republican Steve Stockman, who’d vowed to thwart the president’s proposals by any means necessary. Stockman didn’t know what those proposals were, but he was sure they were “an attack on the Constitution and a violation of his sworn oath of office – they are a direct attack on Americans that place all of us in danger.”
That’s right — a member of Congress claimed a few policy proposals made by the President of the United States were a direct attack on Americans that would place all of us in danger.
Sheriff Hanlin — the law enforcement officer in charge of the investigation of yesterday’s mass killing — was writing a letter to Vice President Joe Biden to say pretty much the same thing (full letter is below). Biden had been named to head an interagency gun-violence task force after the Sandy Hook massacre. Sheriff Hanlin requested that Biden’s task force:
…NOT tamper with or attempt to amend the 2nd Amendment. Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings.
Hanlin went on to formally notify the vice president:
…any federal regulation enacted by Congress of by executive order by the President offending the Constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Douglas County Oregon.
Got that? The sheriff was essentially announcing that he didn’t care what the President of the United States or Congress wanted, he was going to insure that folks in his county could have all the guns they wanted, all the high-capacity magazines they wanted, and all the ammunition they wanted.
In effect, Sheriff Hanlin was protecting the right of Chris Harper Mercer to buy and own three pistols and a semi-automatic rifle. The weapons Chris Harper Mercer used to kill nine citizens in Douglas County. The weapons Chris Harper Mercer used to wound ten other citizens, ones he failed to kill. Those are all citizens Sheriff Hanlin is sworn and duty-bound to protect.
Sheriff Hanlin refuses to say Chris Harper Mercer’s name because he “will not give him the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act.” I think it’s important that we all say the name of both Chris Harper Mercer and Sheriff John Hanlin. Sheriff Hanlin deserves his share of the credit.
NOTE: Here is the letter Sheriff Hanlin sent to Vice President Biden:
By the way, I’ve written about these so-called Constitutional Sheriffs before, and Sheriff Hanlin’s name is included. If you’re willing to put up with it, here are The Dimwit Sheriffs and the Return of the Dimwit Sheriffs.