GRANT COUNTY - Second Amendment supporters have gained a voice in the battle against proposed stricter gun regulations: county sheriffs.
According to the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), at least 226 sheriffs across the U.S. have vowed to defend the constitutional right to bear arms after President Obama released his measures for gun control. Just days ago, the list included less than 100 sheriffs. Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones is part of the growing number.
"If someone comes here saying they will take guns away, I'm going to stand up for citizens' rights," Jones said.
Jones released a letter last week stating his position on the proposed gun law changes.
"Because I consider myself a pro-Second Amendment sheriff, this is a very emotion and important topic for me," Jones wrote. "I also feel that it is important to let you, the citizens, know where I stand."
Jones said he had received questions and concerns from citizens on his position and felt they deserved to know. He believes it is unconstitutional to take weapons away from citizens. The Herald posted the letter on its Facebook page and comments from Grant County citizens mostly supported his decision, but still expressed concern how Jones will protect gun rights if legislation is passed. Residents expressed support for stricter background checks and keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
Obama's plans released earlier this month are geared toward curbing gun violence, including banning assault weapons and high capacity-magazines, requiring background checks for all gun sales, improving mental health coverage and ensuring schools are safe. The mass shootings in 2012, including the Aurora theater and Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, led to the federal government calling for stricter gun laws.
According to the CSPOA, five county sheriffs in Washington, including Jones, have expressed a similar stance on gun control. The other counties include Asotin, Skamania, Whitman and Yakima.
While Jones does not agree with the federal government's proposal to ban assault weapons, he wrote he is a strong advocate for improved background checks and improving the quality of mental healthcare. A similar ban on assault weapons expired in 2004.
"There's nothing concrete that has been passed," Jones said. "I'm one of 39 sheriffs in the state, sitting back and waiting to see what unfolds."
Jones said smaller counties similar to Grant County rely on federal government grants to continue to function.