Sheriff says he supports Second Amendment
|Carol Byers speaks at a meeting of the Lassen TEA Party Patriots at Tuesday, Feb. 12 at the Pizza Factory in Susanville. Byers shared a number of patriotic quotations and some drew applause from the estimated 80 Lassen County residents who attended the meeting. Photo by Sam Williams|
Feb. 19, 2013 — Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon appeared at a Taxed Enough Already (TEA) Party meeting held Tuesday, Feb. 12 at the Pizza Factory in Susanville to give the group an update regarding the sheriff’s office.
But as one might expect the big topic among the TEA Party crowd was the fear of and resistance to any attempt to limit the right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution by either the state or the federal government.
Growdon spoke on a variety of topics — realignment and its impact on the jail, the infrastructure problems at the aging Lassen County Detention Facility, changes in staffing, funding issues, the high number of people incarcerated with underlying mental health issues, the development of a system to protect local schools from gun violence and changes to the routing of 911 calls to accommodate cellular phones.
But, on the evening the president delivered his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress and the nation, the conversation and questions came fast and furious around the topic of the day — guns and gun control laws.
Growdon recounted how he had grown up around guns and learned to respect them from both of his grandfathers. Hunting and shooting, he said, “is a way of life to me,” and he said he is happy to share those experiences with his own children and continue the tradition as it is passed down from generation to generation.
“It’s part of who I am,” Growdon said. “It’s how I was raised.”
Growdon said he “fully supports” the public’s right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
He even said he didn’t mind his name being added to a growing list of so-called “Constitutional Sheriffs” (including, among others, Greg Hagwood, Plumas County; David Hencraft, Tehama County; Bruce Haney, Trinity County; Tom Bosenko, Shasta County; John D’Agostini, El Dorado County; Dean Wilson, Del Norte County; Mike Poindexter, Modoc County; Thomas Allman, Mendocino County; Mike Downey, Humboldt County; and Margaret Mims, Fresno County) even though he said he had not signed any pledge and disagrees with the stance taken by some of his fellow sheriffs.
“There’s nothing I’ve signed, but I’m a well-known, pro-gun sheriff,” Growdon said. “I’m a pro-gun sheriff who will protect our rights in that regard.”
Lassen County Undersheriff John Mineau shared the sheriff’s position, calling the right to keep and bear arms “a core value passed down from our forefathers” and “one of our fundamental beliefs.”
He noted residents of rural counties such as Lassen County view the issues surrounding firearms much differently than residents from urban areas.
But Mineau told the group the issue of gun rights and gun control has become politicized.
Earlier this year Modoc County Sheriff Mike Poindexter drew both praise and criticism after he wrote a letter to Vice-President Joe Biden saying he would not enforce federal gun laws he believed were unconstitutional, and another letter he wrote regarding the annual coyote hunt held in Modoc County earlier this month in which the hunter who killed the most coyotes would win a belt buckle.
A representative from the Modoc County Sheriff’s Office said Poindexter was out of town until after deadline, and she could not release a copy of the letters without his permission. A copy of his letter to the vice president is posted online at mynews4.com/media/lib/167/f/f/a/ffa80ae4-6ea7-47d1-9c76-75cbdbb545a8/modc_pddddfff.pdf.
According to PR Newswire, Poindexter wrote in his second letter on the annual coyote hunt he would not “tolerate any restriction of legal hunting on our public lands” despite federal laws prohibiting or regulating coyote hunting on federal lands in and near Modoc County. He also recommended that any hunt participant who is questioned or detained by federal enforcement officials for illegally hunting on federal lands “cooperate but stand their ground and call the sheriff's office” and that sheriff deputies “absolutely will not tolerate any infringement upon your liberties pertaining to accessing or legally hunting on your public lands.”
Some at the TEA Party meeting praised stands such as Poindexter’s and said the county sheriff and the county board of supervisors are the only ones who stand between the citizens and tyranny. They’re the elected officials who must protect the rights of county residents against an overreaching federal government.
An attendee said the state and federal governments control the local governments through funding — if the counties don’t do what the state and federal government asks them to do, they simply withhold the funding.
Newly elected Assemblyman and former Lassen County Supervisor Brian Dahle found himself at the center of the debate.
According to an Associated Press story published in Redding’s Record Searchlight, “North State Assemblyman Brian Dahle, who lives in Big Valley and himself has participated in the Coyote Drive once in the past, defended the hunt as a tool — one of a shrinking number available to ranchers thanks to limits on trapping — to control predators. Coyotes, he’s noted, will attack and kill calves and cows that are calving, and the costly losses to herds come straight from (the) ranchers’ bottom line. Nor are the wild canines in short supply.”
“Despite claiming to uphold the U.S. Constitution, Sheriff Poindexter has decided he will not enforce and is encouraging others to flout those federal laws which he opposes,” said D.J. Schubert, wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute. “This is a blatant breach of his duty as a law enforcement officer and a violation of the Law Enforcement Code of ethics.”
Growdon said he is a member of the board of directors of the California State Sheriffs Association (CSSA), a group attempting to influence opinions and legislation regarding a number of issues, including gun control.
For example, Growdon said he spoke with the governor and shared his views on the use of dogs when hunting bears. Growdon said the governor didn’t follow his suggestion or take his advice, but at least they were able to talk about the issue face-to-face.
According to the sheriff, it’s important to maintain that sort of credibility. While he may not be as vocal as his Modoc County colleague, he said he’s just as active.
Mineau said Growdon’s service on the CSSA is “a big deal for us” because the sheriff is “speaking for us in the capitol.”
The CSSA also wrote a letter to the vice president regarding federal gun legislation.
“As the chief law enforcement officers in our respective counties, it is our duty to protect the members of our communities and preserve individual rights and freedoms. It is the position of CSSA, in accordance with the Constitution of the United States and the statutes of the state of California, that law-abiding persons who meet the established requirements have the right to acquire, own, possess, use, keep and bear firearms. This right shall not be infringed.”
The group’s letter focused on the relationship between mental health and gun ownership because, “we have seen shooting incidents that involve seriously mentally ill people, many of whom are untreated or under-treated” and “an increase in the number of acts of violence — including homicides — committed by mentally ill people who are not being properly treated.”
One gun owner at the meeting asked Growdon about weapons he had acquired legally and then registered that might become illegal in the near future.
He asked the sheriff what he would do in such a case — which he said would amount to “confiscation.”
Growdon said as a state official he does not have the authority to enforce federal laws, and he added he was totally against some gun legislation currently under consideration in California.
“They all cause me concern,” Growdon said, especially restrictions such as a per round tax on ammunition.
But finally he offered the questioner this assurance — “I’d quit before I’d start knocking on people’s doors and confiscating their guns.”
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