CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A handful of West Virginia sheriffs have publicly declared they won't enforce any new federal laws that they believe violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms, though the organization that represents all 55 has yet to take a stand in the growing debate over curtailing gun violence.
Media outlets report that Boone County Sheriff Randall White sent a letter this week to President Barack Obama, while Roane County Sheriff Mike Harper and Wood County Sheriff Ken Merritt signed a petition created by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association to become a "line in the sand" against the federal government.
"The county sheriff is the one who can say to the feds, 'Beyond these bounds you shall not pass,'" that group says. "This is not only within the scope of the sheriff's authority; it's the sheriff's sworn duty."
No legislation currently before Congress suggests all all-out ban on guns, but one bill would ban certain models of semiautomatic rifles and handguns, as well as large-volume ammunition clips.
Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner says he won't enforce any gun laws that Congress may pass because he is charged with defending the entire U.S. Constitution.
"Everybody, and I mean everybody, has an inherent right to be able to defend themselves," he said. "That is beyond written law. That's the law of nature."
Tanner believes only "five or six really loud morons" in Congress support outlawing certain weapons, but if such a bill does pass, "it will not be enforced on a local level."
Guns are inanimate tools, Tanner said, just like knives, pencils and spoons.
"It's not the pencil's fault we misspell words. It's not the spoon's fault we have fat people. It's not the gun's fault people are shooting each other," he said. "Blaming the gun is ridiculous. I don't hear anybody blaming cars for drunken drivers."