ALBANY, Ore. - The sheriff of an Oregon county sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden on Monday saying he and his deputies would not enforce - nor allow federal officials to enforce - any new federal firearms laws in his county, according to a copy of the letter posted on the Linn County Sheriff's Office website.
"Politicians are attempting to exploit the deaths of innocent victims by advocating for laws that would prevent honest, law abiding Americans from possessing certain firearms and ammunition magazines," Sheriff Tim Mueller wrote in the letter dated January 14, 2013. "Any federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the President offending the constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Linn County, Oregon.
"In summary, it is the position of this Sheriff that I refuse to participate, or stand idly by, while my citizens are turned into criminals due to the unconstitutional actions of misguided politicians," Mueller said.
Crook County Sheriff Jim Hensley said Tuesday he sent the same letter to Biden that was sent Monday by Linn County Sheriff Mueller.
Hensley told KTVZ officials should consider other factors that may have a role in mass shootings, such as violent video games.
Reached by phone on Monday afternoon, Mueller said he decided to write the letter after he and his deputies kept hearing questions from Linn County residents about their positions on the gun control debate.
“I told my deputies, ‘Hey look, I’m not going to turn otherwise honest citizens into criminals because of some misguided efforts from the U.S. Capitol,’” Mueller said.
He added he wants to “let people know that we’re here to stand up for them.”
“Whether it’s the Second Amendment or the First Amendment, it doesn’t make any difference to me. It’s just that I don’t think Congress should enact any of those types of restrictive laws and regulations, be it from Congress or executive order, that offends the constitutional rights of otherwise responsible and honest citizens,” Mueller said.
The sheriff compared his decision to not enforce any potential gun laws to the restrictions on local law enforcement from enforcing federal immigration laws.
He said if his deputies are told not to enforce those federal laws, it’s unreasonable to expect them to enforce any federal gun laws.
Mueller said he’s heard from a few critics already, but they were all from outside Linn County. As of 9:45 p.m. on Tuesday, the Facebook post with the letter had more than 28,000 shares and 23,000 “likes.”
“That’s the good thing about this country. We can have decent conversations that go back and forth without resorting to name-calling and that sort of stuff,” Mueller said. “People are entitled to their opinions and I have mine, both professionally and personally, and I made this one pretty well known.”
President Barack Obama is set to announce Wednesday his plan to curb gun violence in the United States. The plan is being hailed as the nation's most sweeping effort to curb gun violence in nearly two decades. Obama will urge a reluctant Congress to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like those used in last month's massacre of 20 elementary school children in Newtown, Conn.
The broad package Obama will announce is also expected to include more than a dozen steps the president can take on his own through executive action. Those measures will provide a pathway for skirting opposing lawmakers, but they will be limited in scope, and in some cases, focused simply on enforcing existing laws.
Obama will announce his proposals in a midday event at the White House, flanked by children who wrote to him about gun violence following the massacre of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Law enforcement officials, mayors from across the country and supportive congressional lawmakers are also expected to attend.
Obama has pledged urgent action to prevent future mass shootings, and his plan — coming just one month after the Newtown attacks — is swift by Washington standards.
The president's framework is based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden, who led a wide-ranging task force on gun violence. Beyond the gun control measures, Biden also gave Obama suggestions for improving mental health care and addressing violent images in video games, movies and television.
The Associated Press contributed to this report