Sher­iff in Ore­gon shoot­ing has spo­ken out against gun con­trol

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY LENNY BERN­STEIN leonard.bern­stein@wash­

Crew-cut and down­cast, his face re­flect­ing the an­guish of the com­mu­nity he serves, Dou­glas County, Ore., Sher­iff John Han­lin has stead­fastly de­clined to dis­cuss his views on gun con­trol at his ap­pear­ances in the days af­ter the mas­sacre at Um­pqua Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Rose­burg.

But those opin­ions are very strong and, in some cases, very public.

In 2013, shortly af­ter the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School mass shoot­ing, Han­lin wrote Vice Pres­i­dent Bi­den “to make a for­mal re­quest that you NOT tam­per with or at­tempt to amend the 2nd Amend­ment. Gun con­trol is NOT the an­swer to pre­vent­ing heinous crimes like school shoot­ings.”

The sec­ond pur­pose of his let­ter, he added, was to no­tify Bi­den that “any fed­eral reg­u­la­tion en­acted by Congress or by ex­ec­u­tive or­der of the Pres­i­dent of­fend­ing the con­sti­tu­tional rights of my cit­i­zens shall not be en­forced by me or by my deputies.” Han­lin added that he would not al­low fed­eral of­fi­cers to en­force “any un­con­sti­tu­tional reg­u­la­tions or or­ders” in Dou­glas County.

Ear­lier this year, Han­lin spoke out against ex­pand­ing Ore­gon’s sys­tem of back­ground checks for gun pur­chasers, which passed the leg­is­la­ture and was signed by Gov. Kate Brown (D).

And three days be­fore the re­lease of his let­ter to Bi­den, ac­cord­ing to the New York Times, Han­lin put a link on his per­sonal Face­book page to a YouTube video that sug­gests the shoot­ing in SandyHook, Conn., was not the work of a lone gun­man and that some of the par­ents in­ter­viewed in the af­ter­math were ac­tors.

“This makes me won­der who we can trust any­more,” Han­lin wrote. The post has since been re­moved.

In a brief in­ter­view with CNN, Han­lin told a re­porter: “I know what you’re re­fer­ring to, but that’s not a con­spir­acy the­ory that I have.” He also told the net­work Fri­day, as his depart­ment was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the rampage in which 10 peo­ple died, that gun con­trol “cer­tainly has got to be part of the dis­cus­sion,” but not at this time.

“My po­si­tion on it has not changed,” he added.

Dan Gross, pres­i­dent of the Brady Cam­paign to Pre­vent Gun Vi­o­lence, said in a state­ment Satur­day that Han­lin’s “words are dan­ger­ous and mis­lead­ing.”

“Any­one who would sug­gest that back­ground checks, which are sup­ported by 90% of Amer­i­cans and the vast ma­jor­ity of gun own­ers, are any­thing other than a sen­si­ble mea­sure to keep guns out of the wrong hands ei­ther does not un­der­stand how back­ground checks work or sim­ply has an agenda other than public safety.”

Han­lin has been with the sher­iff ’s depart­ment for 26 years and is serv­ing his sec­ond term as sher­iff. He is a na­tive of Dou­glas County and grew up in the Rose­burg area, ac­cord­ing to his bi­og­ra­phy on the depart­ment’s Web site. He at­tended Um­pqua Com­mu­nity Col­lege, where Chris HarperMercer killed nine peo­ple and him­self and wounded nine oth­ers in Thurs­day’s mass shoot­ing.

Han­lin has worked as a nar­cotics de­tec­tive and com­manded the de­tec­tives di­vi­sion be­fore be­com­ing sher­iff.

From his first ap­pear­ance Thurs­day, Han­lin has re­fused to use Mercer’s name, a po­si­tion that has at­tracted sup­port online and else­where.

“I will not give him the credit he prob­a­bly sought prior to this hor­rific act of cow­ardice,” Han­lin said at his first news con­fer­ence, when he urged the media to do the same. “You will never hear me men­tion his name.”

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