By Linda Kor
As lawmakers continue to battle over the rights of gun owners and stricter gun control laws, the Western States Sheriffs Association which includes sheriffs, sheriff’s associations and police chiefs from 14 states west of the Mississippi, has come together in support of addressing the issue of violence over more gun control. During the WSSA convention held last month, the members of that organization unanimously approved a resolution regarding gun control and violence in America.
The document details the need to address violence as a whole and the association’s support of citizens’ right to bear arms. Those who took part in creating the document included Navajo County Sheriff KC Clark, who is the state’s representative for WSSA.
The resolution is the first of its kind to be presented by a law enforcement association and responds in part to the recent violence in Newtown, Conn., which took the lives of so many innocent children. It reads, “This startling awareness of vulnerability has created an unprecedented call for action. The members of WSSA feel that now is the time to discuss violence in its totality, not simply as an issue of ‘gun’ violence.”
As lawmakers continue their debate, many people have concerns that the outcome will impact their right to own firearms, and Clark said he feels it’s important that he be very clear on where he stands in the issue. “I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. As a law enforcement officer I have taken an oath to support the Constitution and there is absolutely no way that’s going to change,” he stated. “You wouldn’t believe the number of people who have called and written wanting to know if I’m going to take their guns from them. I will have no part in taking people’s guns, and I haven’t heard of a sheriff or police chief who would.”
Clark, along with the other sheriffs who support the resolution, including Sheriff Joseph Dedman of Apache County, believe the focus needs to be on the people committing the violent acts.
“I believe we need to concentrate on the mentally ill. I see a lot of seriously ill people filling up the jail and not getting the sort of help they need. If someone is incompetent that doesn’t make him a felon, so that person can purchase a gun. They need to be kept from guns and given help. That’s the sort of thing that needs to change. Adding more gun control is just a feel-good measure,” he explained.
Clark also believes a better solution to what’s happening in society can be found in the home. “What I think is going to solve the problem is people coming together. There was a time when people took care of their neighbors, when church was like family. Now we’ve seen a decline in values,” he noted.
The WSSA’s resolution supports his statement as it reads, “Now is the time to discuss violence in its totality, not simply as an issue of ‘gun’ violence. Violence is a result of a breakdown on many fronts: including the eroding of family, the involvement in gangs, abuse and sale of illegal drugs, lack of proper mental health treatment, and the virtual participation in violent interactive media.”
In taking its stance the WSSA has made it clear that the organization supports the role of firearms in American society. In the document it states, “Firearms have an important role in arming law enforcement, the military for the protection of citizens and for preserving our individual rights and freedoms, as well as a role for law abiding citizens who may freely choose to arm themselves as collectors, to hunt, compete in shooting sports, participate in recreational shooting, or personal and home defense.”
Though the organization does not state what actions it would take if an executive order is issued to restrict firearm ownership, it does note that the WSSA will continue to “encourage the full and complete enforcement of existing gun regulations, and to oppose any executive order or rule that further restricts the rights of law abiding people to own, possess, keep and use firearms.”
Clark wants to assure his constituents that he fully supports the resolution in its entirety and that gun owners who abide by the law should have no concerns regarding their rights. “The President can issue as many executive orders as he chooses, but they are not the law. If someone is going door to door collecting guns it’s not going to be me, not in my lifetime,” said the sheriff.
By Linda Kor