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1/24/2013 6:01:00 AM
New gun laws? Mohave sheriff will just say no
Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan
Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan
Doug McMurdo

Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan has joined a growing list of rural sheriffs who say they will not enforce gun laws that might be enacted in the wake of the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.

"If I feel a law is unconstitutional, I probably wouldn't enforce it," said Sheahan on Wednesday.

Sheahan's stance is similar to that of other sheriffs and elected officials across the country, particularly in rural areas.

"The Second Amendment is a very hot topic these days," he said, alluding to President Barack Obama's recent request that Congress ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Obama also signed 23 measures designed to close loopholes in existing gun laws - actions that do not require congressional approval.

And while Sheahan does not believe the House of Representatives would pass a ban on so-called assault weapons or high-capacity clips, he agrees something must be done to keep these types of weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill.

"The big issue is the mental health question," he said. "We deal with these issues every day and it can be real tough in rural areas.

"There's no crystal ball to help us determine what someone will do in the future."

Sheahan also said rural Arizona is "completely different" from urban New York, where strict gun laws have been in place for years.

"Our situation is unique," he said, "This is a serious issue for Arizona and throughout the West."

And he is not insensitive to the massacre of 20 children and several educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month.

"Certainly that was a big tragedy," he said, "but since then there has been a lot of overreaction. It really gets me when I hear comments on gun crime. Guns don't commit crimes. People do and they do it with a gun or a knife."

Sheahan doesn't believe Congress will ban assault rifles like the AR-15, or high-capacity clips. "But if they did try another ban," he said, "I would never disarm a law-abiding citizen."

Nearly 19 years ago, Congress passed the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and President Bill Clinton signed it into law. The law banned the manufacture and selling of certain weapons, such as AK-47s, Uzis and Tech 9s.

People who already owned weapons subject to the ban were allowed to keep them.

The law was on the books until 2004, when sunset provisions allowed it to expire. While opponents at the time said the ban did nothing to curtail violent crime, law enforcement officials across the country did not want the law to expire.

While Sheahan is far from alone in his opinion, it is at odds with the National Sheriff's Association. Larry Amerson, sheriff of Calhoun County, Ala., told the website the organization does not support confiscating weapons from American citizens, but does support Obama's recent orders.

"Nothing in those 23 executive orders calls for the banning of a magazine or firearm," he told the website. "They did call for closing loopholes about mentally ill persons legally buying firearms. They called for closing loopholes to keep people for who it would be unlawful to purchase a handgun from doing so and it called for more law enforcement in protecting our schools."

Mohave County Chief Deputy County Attorney Jace Zack declined to speak in hypothetical terms - such as a currently nonexistent law that would compel law enforcement to confiscate weapons - but he did say anybody involved in law and order would be bound to enforce laws that courts have deemed constitutional.

He did suggest, however, the sheriff could place a low priority on enforcement of such a law if it came to pass.

ICT - Hummingbead of Kingman

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: Tammy Gross

Well said Sheriff. Glad to see Mohave County standing by law abiding citizens and their rights to bear arms.

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: Throwing Up

God Bless Tom Sheahan, If more American's were like him we wouldn't be having this problem in the first place. They want to avoid the real cause of these problems and blame guns. I for one am tired of listening to these people. It was against the law for that kid in Sandy Brook to have the guns in the first place. It was illegal for him to take them to the school. It was illegal when he jumped the fence to the school and it was illegal for him to kill people. All of those laws didn't stop him. So what are more laws going to do. If people would be moral in their actions this crap would stop.

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: How Is Arizona Different, Sheriff?

How is Arizona different? Is it because we have sheriff's that don't believe their job is to keep citizens safe so they turn that responsibility over to gangs with guns.

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: Sheriff is Now Making His Office Even More Political

The sheriff has proven what so many have claimed - he (via his deputies) are just plain afraid to go out and do their job. That is why it takes hours for a deputy to answer a call in certain areas. Now he is trying to disguise that apprehension for some noble stance on the gun issue. Sheriff, let us remind you of your job - enforce the laws.

Sheriff, you may think you are making points with the gun lovers of this area but in the long run you are destroying the neutrality of your office.

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: Please Answer, Sheriff

Since he spoke of the 20 1st-graders murdered in CT, and says in essence guns don't kill people, perhaps he can explain why the same day as the CT shootings a nut with a knife went into a Chinese school and stabbed over 20 young students BUT NONE DIED.

We, the majority of citizens that are for RESPONSIBLE GUN LAWS understand that crazies will always try to cause harm to others. It's just not as widespread as when one uses a weapon designed to kill people - guns.

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: Time to Retire the Sheriff

"The big issue is the mental health question," he said. "We deal with these issues every day and it can be real tough in rural areas."

Perhaps he should use his "political self" to work for more improvement of the mental health system instead of refusing to do the job that ALL taxpayers are paying him for.

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: New Flash - Sheriff's Enforce Laws

Well the wheel falls off the cart. I'd like to remind the good sheriff of his sworn duty to uphold and enforce ALL laws.

His job isn't to decide which laws to enforce. His job is NOT RULING ON THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF LAWS -that's the supreme court's job. One would think the sheriff would have a general (if not detailed) understanding of our system). Terrible when a professional law enforcement officer decides to let political issues or fear decide which laws he will and will not enforce.

Sheriff Sheahan, in the likes of our other disgraceful sheriff Bozelet, has brought shame on the county.

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: Al DiCicco

We have a good man for Sheriff. Thank you!

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: desert dweller

?? different story today? I thought yesterdays paper said he "would enforce the laws"? Maybe he decided he too took an "oath" and decided maybe he should read it?

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: desert dweller

If people really want America to go back to a decent society...QUIT taking God OUT OF IT! Easy huh, Put God and Jesus back in schools, in government, in the work place, on the street...on crosses on hills, in the nativity scene...where do the genius' think our protection for the past several hundred years came from? Why do they think (if they do) why all this evil now? Couldn't be because Almighty God is a gentleman and has taken his hand off America like people have demanded!

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: Excuse Me?

As Sheriff and sworn to uphold the laws and the Constitution of the United States and the State of Arizona, he doesn't have the option to not enforce the law.

5th grade social studies.

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