Mendocino County sheriff weighs in on gun debate

  • Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman, Wednesday Oct. 12, 2011 at his office in Ukiah. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2011

Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman — already at odds with the federal government over the county's pot permit program — is adding his voice to a chorus of rural sheriffs who are refusing to enforce any new gun control measures they deem to be unconstitutional.

Many of the lawmen and women hailing from small towns from Alabama to Oregon wrote letters this week to Vice President Joe Biden and members of Congress, decrying what they see as an attack on gun rights by the Obama administration.

Allman is still crafting his letter, which he expects to send next week. Some of his peers, like Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, called elected officials "despicable" for using recent mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado to further what they consider misguided political agendas.

Others, like Sheriff Gil Gilbertson in Josephine County, Ore., said they would refuse to give in to "big brother" by ignoring unlawful restrictions and blocking enforcement by federal officers.

Allman said he won't indulge in similar chest-thumping because he doesn't want to fan the flames of an already contentious debate. But he said he would express his "deep respect" for the right to bear arms in a county that likes its guns. And he said he couldn't envision a scenario where he would comply with orders to seize weapons.

"I certainly will defend the Second Amendment," Allman said. "But I'm not going to sit here and puff up my chest."

The campaign is organized by the Texas-based Constitutional Sheriffs and Police Officers Association, which Allman joined about a year ago. He attended its annual conference last year in Las Vegas.

The group, founded by former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, has vowed to do whatever it can to protect the rights of gun owners in small counties.

It advocates states' rights and stresses that county sheriffs are the last line of defense against attacks on the Constitution.

The Southern Poverty Law Center in 2011 classified the organization as an anti-government "Patriot" group.

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