The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association Web site lists 10 state sheriff’s associations and 300 individual county sheriffs as opposing President Barack Obama’s current push for more gun control.
Among those sheriffs are eight from Pennsylvania. One of them is Chester County’s Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh. Delaware County Sheriff Joseph F McGinn is not on the list.
According to the site, “Sheriffs have risen up all over our great nation to stand up against the unconstitutional gun control measures being taken.”
While a county sheriff in Pennsylvania has little influence on federal legislation and does not enforce such, Welsh, said she would stand with law abiding citizens to make sure their constitutionally guaranteed rights are protected.
In a prepared statement, Welsh said: “In accordance with the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, I believe that law abiding citizens have the right to own, possess, keep and bear arms. I will not support any efforts to infringe upon the constitutional liberties of responsible citizens in Chester County. I continue to stand with my citizens to assure that their rights under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights will not be infringed.”
In a telephone interview, Welsh, a Pennsbury Township resident, said she has not seen any proposed legislation and declined to address hypothetical situations. She did say, however, that she would consider proposals such as limiting the capacity of magazines as “incremental incursions” into those Second Amendment guarantees.
(Limiting magazines to 15 rounds is one of the measures gun control advocates have brought up since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in December.)
While Welsh doesn’t know how future legislation might read, her concern is the erosion of rights of law abiding citizens because of the actions of people who are mentally ill or otherwise irresponsible.
“You can’t legislate insanity,” she said.
Welsh said she has no problems with requiring background checks for people applying for licenses to carry firearms. Her office has denied such permits for some who have criminal backgrounds, have proven themselves to be irresponsible and for those who lie on their weapons applications. Her office has also taken away licenses.
“I’ve revoked [Licenses to Carry] if something has been brought to my attention, if a citizen has been charged with anything that makes me feel he’d be an irresponsible gun owner,” she said.
Welsh, who has nine grandchildren, understands the serious nature of tragedy and how it makes people feel.
“We all still weep for what happened at Sandy Hook,” she said. “But no matter what we do, we won’t keep magazines or semiautomatic weapons out of the hands of criminals.”
She added that she’s also concerned that future legislation could limit the firepower of local law enforcement.
“Are you limiting law enforcement? Are you limiting our ability to respond?”
New gun laws aren’t needed, she said. What is needed is for existing laws to be enforced. Her concern with possible new gun laws is that there will be those “incremental incursions” that nibble away at the rights of lawful citizens to the point where the only people who can get the weapons people are complaining about are the bad guys.
Whatever federal legislation might happen is out of the hands and the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania sheriffs. Sheriffs here are limited because they are not front line law enforcement officials. Municipal and state police handle that function. It’s different in other states, she said, where county sheriffs are the primary law enforcement officers and are, in effect, “the law of the land.”
The four-term sheriff said she has sworn an oath to protect the constitutions of the United States and of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and that, “the primary responsibility of law enforcement is to protect the citizens and preserve individual rights and freedoms.”