An Oregon sheriff has sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden saying his department will not enforce any new gun laws it considers unconstitutional.
Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller, in his letter dated Monday, said politicians are "attempting to exploit the deaths of innocent victims" by supporting laws that would harm law-abiding Americans. The sheriff said he took an oath to support the Constitution, and laws preventing citizens from owning certain semi-automatic firearms and ammunition magazines would violate their rights.
"We are Americans," Mueller wrote. "We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws."
Mueller told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Albany, Ore., that he felt compelled to make his views known because sheriffs have not had much of a say on the vice president's anti-gun violence task force. Mueller said his constituents have been repeatedly asking his deputies about what will happen if new gun restrictions are adopted.
"We're restricted and prohibited from enforcing all types of federal laws, including immigration laws," he said Tuesday. "It would be unreasonable for anyone to think that I would enforce a federal firearms law."
The sheriff figures Biden probably won't even receive his letter, but "it needed to be said, so I said it."
"I tried to be as respectful as possible, but I also needed to get my point across," Mueller said.
Mueller said some other sheriffs expressed support for his stance, but he does not know of any who have pledged to take similar action in regard to potential gun laws. Holly Russell, executive director of the Oregon State Sheriff's Association, did not respond to phone and email messages left late Tuesday afternoon.
Linn County is largely rural and politically conservative. Fewer than 40 percent of its registered voters supported President Barack Obama in November. Mueller said most households in the county have guns.
Though the letter might add fuel to an already hot topic, Mueller said he wishes people could have a civilized discussion about the issue, rather than resort to threats and name-calling. He said he doesn't think the vice president is a bad person; he just doesn't like the path he appears to be on regarding gun laws.
"We don't have to be jerks to each other over it," he said. "If old Joe wants to come out here to Linn County, we'd have a good conversation."
Follow Steven DuBois at twitter.com/pdxdub.