Local sheriffs strongly support Second Amendment

Published 12:03am Sunday, February 3, 2013

By ROD GUAJARDO & VERSHAL HOGAN

NATCHEZ — Lawmakers in Mississippi and Louisiana are launching counteroffensive measures against federal gun control efforts, but two local sheriffs said they aren’t jumping on any bandwagons just yet.

Following President Obama’s recent gun control proposals, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said he opposes anything that would jeopardize the Second Amendment.

Bryant said he and other lawmakers would, “immediately pass legislation that would make any unconstitutional order by the president illegal to enforce in Mississippi by state or local law enforcement.”

The effort is aimed at Obama’s push to ban military-style assault weapons, require background checks on all firearms purchases and limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.

Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said he’s not afraid to admit that he’s a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.

“My philosophy is that the Second Amendment is exactly what it states, that the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed — shall not unless you are a felon or are in extenuating circumstances where you are not responsible to have one.”

While some might interpret the amendment other ways, Mayfield said he believes it is fundamentally about self-defense.

“I don’t believe it has anything to do with hunting, I believe it has to do with basic self-defense — the people have the right to defend themselves,” he said. “If you feel your life is in danger you have the right to use whatever force necessary.”

The sheriff said he’s not worried about having to enforce any potential new federal gun laws.

“The federal people would have to support the federal laws,” he said. “If they are federal laws, I would think the enforcement would be under the federal statutes, and I don’t think we are going to enact any state laws that are going to go against the Second Amendment.”

In Louisiana, Republican state lawmakers have announced an effort called “Defend Louisiana” that is designed to defend gun ownership rights in Louisiana.

“If we don’t stand strong to defend our Second Amendment rights, they’re going to be eroded away slowly, sort of like a tide that creeps in,” said Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, who is leading the effort. “We don’t need to whittle away at law-abiding citizens’ rights.”

Concordia Parish Sheriff Kenneth Hedrick said he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but also cares about the safety of residents in the area.

“My personal belief is that every citizen of Concordia Parish who has a legal right to possess a firearm should have the right to do so,” Hedrick said. “I don’t take gun control lightly, but my main goal is to ensure the safety of the people of Concordia Parish.”

Hedrick said he believes the gun control reforms being pushed on the federal level should focus on keeping guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.

“I believe there should be better background checks as far as checking for a history of mental health in whoever is purchasing a gun,” Hedrick said. “But bad guys aren’t usually the ones who buy guns at a store.”

The efforts taken by lawmakers, Hedrick said, won’t be of great concern to his department unless other law enforcement agencies, like the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, back the efforts.

But even then, Hedrick said he would make a decision based on what’s best for Concordia Parish, not what other groups are supporting or rejecting.

“We do stand by the sheriff’s association and all the sheriffs in Louisiana, but if they come up with something we’re still going to do whatever is best for Concordia Parish,” Hedrick said. “Our main goal no matter what’s going on across the nation is to protect the lives and property of citizens of Concordia Parish.”