In response to federal gun laws proposed in the wake of the shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson recently sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden, affirming his support for the Second Amendment and urging that more attention be paid to mental health issues.
In his letter, dated Feb. 9, Parkinson wrote that he “will not take firearms from law abiding citizens and turn law abiding citizens into criminals by enforcing gun control legislation that will not solve or prevent tragedy.”
“I believe that every law abiding citizen has the right to acquire, own, possess, use, keep and bear arms under the 2nd Amendment,” Parkinson wrote.
California has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, he noted, adding, “I believe that we must continue to take steps to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”
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However, he added, most people’s first reaction after a tragedy, such as the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, is to try to pass more restrictive laws and look for a quick solution rather than address the real problem.
Parkinson wrote that more attention must be paid to mental health systems and those with mental illness instead of passing more gun laws.
“Many of these shootings and many of the homicides in my county, over the past few years, have been related to mental illness,” he wrote.
When asked for further clarification of his position on President Barack Obama’s gun control proposals, Parkinson said through a spokesman that “he is fundamentally opposed to anything that doesn’t fix the problem and doesn’t think these proposals at the national level fix the problem.”
Parkinson hasn’t had time to review a package of gun control bills introduced by state Democratic lawmakers, spokesman Tony Cipolla said.
However, Parkinson “thinks this is an issue that should be left up to the states, and it shouldn’t come from the federal government,” Cipolla added.
The tone and message of Parkinson’s letter mirrors that of a letter sent to Biden by the California State Sheriffs’ Association on Feb. 7.
Individual sheriffs across the state were given an option to draft their own letters, which Parkinson chose to do, Cipolla said.
Cipolla added that the Sheriff’s Office is nonpartisan and “not beholden to any political party.”
The State Sheriffs’ Association letter was signed by association President Keith Royal, the sheriff of Nevada County. It also states that “law-abiding persons who meet the established requirements have the right to acquire, own, possess, use, keep and bear firearms.”
The association letter urges that more resources be made available to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Currently, only an estimated one-quarter of felony convictions are available in the system, according to the association.
Also, the association wrote, through 2010, only 28 states had submitted a limited number of court judgments involving dangerous mental illnesses, when the National Center for State Courts estimated there should have been as many as 2 million disqualifying mental illness records in the database.