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Some sheriffs vow not to enforce Obama's gun plan; anti-violence groups praise measures

Jackson County Sheriff's Office

Denny Peyman, sheriff of Jackson County, Ky., vows not to enforce gun-control measures he believes are unconstitutional.

Denny Peyman didn't watch President Barack Obama's gun-control announcement Wednesday. But the Jackson County, Ky., sheriff said he already knows how the proposals will affect the way he does his job: not one whit.

Peyman is one of several sheriffs across the country who are vowing not to enforce new firearms restrictions that could be imposed by Congress or by executive order.

"Kentucky is a sovereign state," Peyman told NBC News. "The federal government is coming in and saying, 'This is what you're going to do.' We're not going to do it."

The White House's wish list includes an assault-weapons ban. Peyman said if it comes to pass, he won't be part of any crackdown.


"Let's say I know there's a thousand assault weapons in my county ... I'm not going to be a witch hunter and go door to door checking," he said.

"I just happen to see someone with one?" he added. "He's hunting? He's on his own property? I'm not going to do a thing to him."

Police chiefs from around the country, who are appointed not elected, were on hand in Washington to support the president’s announcement. But a number of sheriffs, many of whom must run for office, were vocal in their opposition.

In Minnesota, Pine County Sheriff Robin Cole told constituents in a letter that he would "refuse" to carry out any federal law that infringed on his interpretation of the Second Amendment. Two Oregon sheriffs, Tim Meuller of Linn County and Jim Hensley of Crook County, said the same in letters to Vice President Joe Biden.

NAGR Staff

Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners says sheriffs have been calling him to say they won't be part of any federal gun crackdown.

Dudley Brown, founder of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which considers the National Rifle Association too weak on gun rights, said he has gotten calls from other sheriffs around the country who say they won't cooperate with the feds.

"We'll see how many of them have the courage to do it," he said.

Brown said he particularly wants to take aim at Obama's move to require background checks before all private sales of guns.

"This is an attempt to catalog every gun owner in America. It's registration," he said. "We don't believe he can do this. We know there are U.S. senators who don't believe this is legal."

Obama's slate won praise, however, from an array of gun-control advocates and anti-violence organizations.

"We applaud it," said Tom Yates, who co-founded Lower Merion United, a group that formed after the Sandy Hook school massacre that sparked Obama's response.

Yates said it was apparent that passing the legislative component of the package would be a challenge, but he lauded a "comprehensive approach" that includes stepped-up law enforcement of existing laws, better education and mental health resources.

"If you look at how much has been done over the past generation, this is the most anyone could expect to happen," he said. "It's sad it took the tragedy of Sandy Hook for it to happen."

Dr. Gary Slutkin of Cure Violence, a nonprofit in Chicago, where more than 500 people were murdered last year, said he was gratified by the White House's order expanding research into violence and its plan to consult the health-care community for solutions.


"We've got three independent evaluations that show you can drop shootings and killings through the public health approach," Slutkin said.

The research-focused parts of the plan won't generate the same fiery debate as those that affect who can buy guns and ammunition and what kind.

There was plenty of heated rhetoric on Twitter, which was flooded with opposing views, many using the hashtag #nowisthetime, a reference to Obama's catchphrase.

Courtesy Henry Washington

Pastor Henry Washington of Richmond, Calif., worries that Obama's gun-control proposals won't stop the killing in his community.

"How is more red tape imposed on lawful citizenry going to save lives? And using child grief to vilify U.S. Reps is despicable," one critic tweeted.

"Great job, Pres. Obama," a supporter posted. "There are way more for you than against you. Let's get it done."

In Richmond, Calif., Pastor Henry Washington said he supported any move to keep guns out of the hands of the young people he counsels, but he worried it wouldn't happen fast enough or at all or attack the root of the problem.

"By the time it touches the gun dealers, how many more lives will be cast out?" he said.

"In Marin County just yesterday they were out of money in three hours on a gun buyback program," he said.

"Maybe there will be a few less choppers -- that's what we call assault rifles -- that they can get on the streets. But what do we do with the ones already in hand?"

An Oregon sheriff is vowing not to enforce new federal gun restrictions and accusing the White House and lawmakers of "attempting to exploit the death of innocent victims." KGW's Abby Gibb reports.

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