Since the tragic school shooting in December and the subsequent discussion and controversy about gun control our office has received a number of inquiries from citizens about where I stand with respect to gun control and what my deputies or I would do if any gun control legislation is enacted.
I am providing this response which hopefully will address those questions. I should note, however, that this legal issue like all others is very complex and does not lend itself to a simple explanation.
As sheriff I am legally required to enforce duly enacted laws of Ohio and the United States, and to support the constitutions of both the United States and Ohio. Federal laws enacted by Congress addressing gun control or any other matters fall primarily under the enforcement responsibility and authority of a federal law enforcement agency (e.g. FBI, ATF, Secret Service, DEA).
Depending upon the precise scope and wording of the law itself local law enforcement agencies and their officers may or may not be tasked with any enforcement authority or responsibilities.
Here is a legal opinion distributed to Ohio Sheriffs this week from the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association (BSSA) legal counsel concerning the authority and duties of Ohio Sheriffs: “A Sheriff is sworn to enforce the laws of Ohio and the United States. It is not within the authority of the Sheriff to interpret the law or to decide the constitutionality of the law. This is a function of the Courts. Enacted laws are presumed to be constitutional until such time as a Court with proper jurisdiction rules otherwise.”
I am a long-time member of both the NRA and a local gun club, and have always been a strong advocate and supporter of concealed carry and the possession of firearms by law abiding citizens. When Ohio passed concealed carry legislation in 2004, I applauded this initiative and our Office implemented a user-friendly and no-hassle procedure for processing concealed carry applications.
That first year our office led the entire state with the most concealed carry permits issued. Thereafter, our Office has remained in the top 10 percent of all 88 counties in Ohio for the number of concealed carry applications processed, and we have received several positive comments from applicants and firearm advocacy groups.
The debate concerning gun control is far from over and will likely take many twists and turns before legislative action is finally enacted. Even after that the courts will likely be called on to have the final say.
Thus, at this particular point in time we are in a wait and see mode and unless or until gun control legislation materializes and has been reviewed by the courts predictions and possible ramifications of such laws are speculative and premature.
A.J. Rodenberg is the Clermont County Sheriff.