Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher confirmed Tuesday he sent out a memo about recent gun control issues last week in which he stated, "As Sheriff, I refuse to participate or cooperate with any unconstitutional order that will infringe upon our Second Amendment rights."
In an attempt to prevent mass shootings like those at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 and an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in July 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama proposed banning further sales of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets, closing background check loopholes for gun buyers, increasing school safety, and providing easier access to mental healthcare.
"While most Americans believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to bear arms, they also believe that we all share a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to ensure that guns are used safely and don't fall into the wrong hands," United States Attorney for the District of Arizona John S. Leonardo wrote in a letter released Friday. "The president's proposals recognize both our right and our obligations."
Recently, four members of the Arizona State House of Representatives introduced House Bill 2291 that would amend Arizona Revised Statues to make unenforceable in Arizona any federal law, rule, regulation or order after Jan. 1, 2013, that tries to ban or restrict ownership of semiautomatic firearms, magazines, or accessories or requires them to be registered. The bill also would make any federal government employee who tries to enforce such a federal order guilty of a Class 6 felony.
Mascher said the memo he sent staff describes his feelings on the conversation about deterring gun violence going on across the country.
"As your Sheriff, I have taken an oath of office to support and uphold the Constitution of the United States and to protect the people of Yavapai County," said Masher in the memo he sent out Friday. "I take this oath seriously."
"Now we have politicians that want to prevent millions of law-abiding, honest Americans from owning certain firearms and magazines because of the mentally ill and violent criminal offenders," Masher said in the memo. "I do not believe that extreme acts of violent criminal behavior should ever misguide a politician into enacting orders or laws that would take away constitutional rights and liberties from law-abiding Americans."
Mascher said he wrote the memo after deputies, support staff and community members asked him questions about his stance on Second Amendment rights and recent gun control proposals, as well as his concerns about safety after school shootings in other states.
"At every community get-together I've gone to for the past few months, at least one person has asked me about it in one way or another," Mascher said. "It's something that's obviously on people's minds."
An employee at Prescott Valley Gun said customers have not been asking them questions about gun control or buying more semi-automatics or high-capacity magazines. "It's just been business as usual."
Mascher said people's biggest concern is "that their individual rights and liberties as an American are being chipped away at, because politicians are looking at the issue, creating controversy, and saying, "We just need to start limiting guns.'"
Mascher said he does not agree with the politicians.
"I've never looked at this as a gun control issue," said Mascher, who has served 29 years in law enforcement in Yavapai County. "I've always looked at it as a mental health or crime issue."
Mascher plans to meet with the sheriff's association in the next three weeks to get their thoughts on the issue.
"Things here are different than in a more urban environment where police are minutes away," Mascher said. "Here, a deputy could be 45 minutes away, and people have a right to defend themselves."