In response to the proposals and executive orders unveiled by President Obama this week aimed at combating gun violence, several sheriffs across the country announced they plan to ignore any new gun laws they consider unconstitutional.
Along with urging Congress to pass bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, the President also enacted 23 measures that don't require the approval of lawmakers.
Calhoun County, Ala. Sheriff Larry Amerson, the President of the National Sheriffs' Association, told Officer.com that his group does not support taking firearms away from American citizens, but does support the executive orders made by President Obama.
"Nothing in those 23 executive orders calls for the banning of a magazine or firearm," he said. "They did call for closing loopholes about mentally ill persons legally buying firearms. They called for closing loopholes to keep people for who it would be unlawful to purchase a handgun from doing so and it called for more law enforcement in protecting our schools.
"They are all things which are common sense, and we should support."
He said some sheriffs may not agree with the executive orders, or believe they won't have an impact, but said that they are necessary.
"Some folks say they don't want those 23 things; they say they don't matter. But I would say if it deals with a concealed weapon that is carried unlawfully -- while some criminals are going to continue to do so -- if we don't make it unlawful, there's nothing we can do about it if we catch them."
As far as enforcing future laws passed by Congress, Amerson made it clear that is not the job of local law enforcement, but that sheriffs who have vowed to ignore such laws altogether would not be fulfilling their sworn duty.
"If a federal law is enacted, I can't enforce it. I couldn't if I wanted to," he said. "It is worrisome to me that law enforcement officers are saying before anything gets passed that they would refuse to follow a lawfully enacted law. As frustrating as it is for some of us on some of the laws that are out there, they are still the law, and it is our duty to follow the law."
He said that in his county, he plans to do the same thing he has done since he began his career in law enforcement back in 1975.
"I'm going to enforce the laws of the state of Alabama to the best of my ability and laws that I disagree with or I think need improving, I'm going to petition my state as we do every year legislative-wise."
While local sheriffs don't have control over federal laws that are passed, Amerson reiterated that actions -- such as those taken in Obama's 23 executive orders -- can help aid local law enforcement.
"We certainly need laws on the books that close the loopholes and give us the tools to do something about it in our daily duties."