OSSA avoids formal stance

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer February 15, 2013 09:49 am

by BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / The Observer 

Sheriff’s association says county sheriffs should take own position on gun control

The president of the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association said this week his organization supports the Constitution, but has decided against taking a formal stance in the current controversy over gun rights.

Jason Myers, the sheriff in Marion County, said approximately 20 members who attended a recent OSSA executive committee meeting reached a consensus against drafting a formal position on gun control issues. Meyers said it was agreed that each of the county sheriffs should take their own position, independent of the association.

“We support the Constitution, but the difficulty is with writing a single letter that captures the feeling of all 36 county sheriffs” Myers said.

Debate over gun control picked up following December’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. In the wake of that event, President Barack Obama signed a series of executive orders tightening gun laws, and is promoting a plan that includes universal background checks, a crackdown on gun trafficking, and a ban on military assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

Many in the country see the proposed ban as a threat to the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which gives people the right to keep and bear arms. In Oregon and elsewhere, some county sheriff’s have said they won’t enforce laws that violate the Constitution.

In Union County, Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen has been meeting with the public and spreading a message that his office is sworn to protect citizen’s rights, including those guaranteed under the Second Amendment. Rasmussen is urging people to get involved in the legislative process, and is circulating a petition urging congress to vote against the ban.

At a meeting of the Elgin City Council Tuesday, a citizen asked Rasmussen if he is a “Constitution sheriff.” Rasmussen quickly answered yes. Rasmussen said he hopes the OSSA eventually does take a formal stance.

“I, and several other sheriffs, feel it is important to have a unified position for the citizens of Oregon. The matter is still being considered by OSSA and all sheriffs in that group,” Rasmussen said.

After the OSSA executive committee meeting, Myers emailed member sheriffs to let them know the association will not be taking a formal position. In that document, Meyers said he, OSSA Executive Director Holly Russell and several others met with U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall the day before the executive committee meeting. Marshall had made inquiries about the OSSA’s position, and also wanted to discuss the organizations’ working relationship with federal partner agencies.

Myers said in the email that it is the OSSA’s intent to work collaboratively with those agencies. Clarifying the comment this week, Myers said it means that collaboration  and cooperation between the OSSA and agencies like the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms has not been damaged by the controversy.

“The federal partners wanted to make sure our relationship was still good,” he said.

Myers said all county sheriffs are free to take their own positions on gun control, with no interference from the state organization.

“It’s up to the individual sheriffs. The association does not oversee their opinions,” he said.