JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Sheriffs across Northeast Florida and around the nation are split on the measures President Barack Obama proposed on Wednesday to combat gun violence.
In addition to calling on Congress to ban assault rifles and large-capacity magazines, Obama called for stricter enforcement of existing gun laws and set forth 23 executive actions, including orders to make more federal data available for background checks and end a freeze on government research on gun violence.
"I think there are some things in there that I think I'm going to agree with, but there may things in there that I disagree with," said Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford.
Rutherford does support closing the "gun-show loophole" in background checks, and had proposed legislation for a purchasers permit that would have addressed the sale of guns from someone other than a licensed dealer, but he went on tos assure Jacksonville residents, "I'm not going to do anything unconstitutional, like take people guns away from them or anything like that."
Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith called the president's proposals "nothing new," and said his office will approach the job the same as always.
"I take a stand with the president, and I'm as far a conservative as they get, but I think a lot of the things he mentioned today, we need to seriously look at," Smith said. "And it's not the law abiding citizens we need to be looking at. I'm with him; it's the criminals we should be looking at and enforcing those laws that are already on the books," said Smith.
Some of Smith's colleagues have already decided that they won't follow the president's lead. Many said they believe the new policy steps on people's constitutional rights.
Sheriff Denny Peyman with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office in Kentucky weighed in on the presidents remarks.
"I'm not defying the president. I'm defying the order they can call to say that they're going to collect guns. I defy that," said Peyman.
A like-minded sheriff in Oregon, who made his pronouncement before the president made his speech, sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden, declaring he won't enforce any orders from Washington.
Sheriff Tim Mueller said if he feels the new laws "offend the constitutional rights of citizens," he will not enforce any changes.
Sheriff Smith both agrees and disagrees with Mueller.
"I don't see anything I've read, talking with anybody, that says he's trampling on our constitution. But I can tell you this, I took an oath to uphold the constitution, and that's where I stand," said Smith.
Channel 4 spoke with several sheriffs about Obama's executive orders Wednesday night.
"It's our responsibility to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the state of Florida. There's other issues we need to look at, too. One thing won't solve the problem," said Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper.
"I do not know. I don't want to comment as an individual sheriff. We have a Sheriff's Association conference next week in Destin, Fla. We want to speak with one voice on this," said Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson.
"We don't have an opinion. The president gave a speech. Until we get something handed to us from the federal government… an Executive Order is not law. We've got to wait and see. The bottom line, there's no new law. If he wants to direct the ATF to do something, he's welcome. No changes for us right now," said Sgt. Chuck Mulligan, the public information officer for the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
"For us, it's way too early. We haven't discussed it as buddies yet, let alone as staff. The laws are in place as they are right now," said Major Gary Bowling with the Putnam County Sheriff's Office.
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