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Cascade County

Jan 27, 2013 10:35 PM by KRTV

Cascade County Sheriff weighs in on gun debate

President Obama on Wednesday laid out a comprehensive package for reducing gun violence in America, a multi-part plan he says will not only "help prevent mass shootings" but also to "reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country."

Among the initiatives outlined in Mr. Obama's plan include universal background checks for gun sales, the reinstatement and strengthening of the assault weapons ban, capping ammunition magazines to a 10-round limit, banning armor-piercing ammunition, providing schools with resource officers and school counselors, putting more police officers on the streets, creating serious punishments for gun trafficking, and ensuring that health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.

Several Sheriffs in Montana have reacted to the proposed new guidelines.

Sanders County Sheriff Tom Rummel sent a letter to county residents on Monday outlining his position. In the letter, Rummel said he wanted to clear up any doubts about his stance on gun control and the Constitution. He said that our right to self defense is first and foremost "God given," and that this right is protected in both the U.S. and Montana Constutions.

He ended the letter by saying that he and his deputies will not enforce any federal regulations enacted by Congress or Executive orders of the President circumventing the rights of the citizens of Sanders County.

Lewis & Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton says that he's responded to many concerned residents wanting to know his stance. Though no federal mandate has been ordered, Dutton says he will not take away guns from anyone who is law abiding and he doesn't support confiscation of any weapons of any make or model.

Now Cascade County Sheriff Bob Edwards has offered his thoughts on the issue; he posted the following open letter on his Facebook page:

A Note from your Sheriff: I have been fielding a lot of questions lately regarding my opinion on gun laws.

I will start out by saying as your Sheriff, I have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and Montana and I take that very seriously. This means I will not support any unconstitutional laws and I do not think any Sheriff would.

I have also pledged to protect and serve the citizens of Cascade County to the best of my ability.

Guns are on the forefront of debate when it comes to violent crime. This is where I get frustrated. There is more to violent crime than just guns and in my opinion, new gun laws will not change the fact we have violent crimes.

We recently had a suspect drive through our County throwing pipe bombs at responding law enforcement trying to kill them. Also, there was a suspect that attempted to attack one of my deputies with a baseball bat that had fencing nails attached to it.

Obviously, these people were not in their right minds and did not use guns to commit their violent crimes.

I would like to see our lawmakers start working on mental health issues. Granted, not everyone with a mental health issue has violent tendencies so please do not take this the wrong way.

We in law enforcement are the first to respond to a person having a mental health crisis and usually it ends with the persons arrested for disorderly conduct or trespass. I am here to tell you, jail is not the answer.

These folks end up in my jail on a misdemeanor, and a lot of times they end up being charged with a felony because they act out and assault one of my staff and end up staying. This is not fair to people with mental illness. They need a place where they can go to get the help they need.

It also takes a ton of time to get them committed and they have to wait in jail while the process takes place.Remember these folks have rights as well.

We in law enforcement can't even take them to the hospital unless they are a threat to themselves or others. Medical professionals are not allowed to inform law enforcement on mental health issues due to HIPAA regulations. This is a huge issue especially if the person is violent.

I realize we have rights when it comes to medical treatment but when a person is violent and has the potential to harm others, we in law enforcement would like to know so we can take the steps to prevent violent crimes. What about all of the people with drug /alcohol induced mental health issues? These people are the most dangerous and a huge challenge for law enforcement. They do not have a rational thought process and will be violent at the drop of a hat. Most of the violent crime cases I have investigated were a result of alcohol/drug use.

I could go on and on. My point: our lawmakers need to slow down and take a look at the big picture and the many pieces of the pie that make up violent crime. More gun laws are not the answer. We have good gun laws already on the books. Knee jerk reactions usually never work out and mistakes get made.

I am a firm believer in our Constitution and the 2nd Amendment. I have been a responsible gun owner for years. My friends and family that own guns are responsible and law abiding citizens as well.

We have a lot of good responsible gun owners in Cascade County exercising their 2nd Amendment right so let's not turn these law abiding citizens into criminals with the swipe of a pen.

Some of you may not agree with my opinion and I respect that.

I have talked to a lot of people regarding this issue and the bottom line is, and we have all agreed, that we need to look at the big picture.

I hope this answers some of your questions.

Sheriff Edwards

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