Kootenai County sheriff opposes most gun regulation

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Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger released a statement this week declaring his opposition to some but not all of the Obama administration's proposed gun regulations.

"Personally, I oppose many of them and will watch and see if the courts rule on the constitutionality of them," Wolfinger stated. "However, some of the proposals I don't disagree with."

Wolfinger said he supports expanding background checks to apply to all firearms sales, as currently proposed at the federal level.

That includes gun shows and private sales, he said on Thursday, where background checks don't currently occur.

"That way, the right people will still get them," Wolfinger said of procuring guns.

Wolfinger favors keeping firearms out of the hands of “the wrong people,” he added, like individuals with serious mental illness and convicted felons.

But that raises other issues, he said. 

"First you have to have a definition, what's going to be considered seriously mentally ill?" he said. "Then, how do you track that? If it becomes HIPAA (regulated), how do you track those with serious mental issues so they're not buying weapons?"

There's also the matter of providing due process, Wolfinger added, to accommodate individuals who receive necessary treatment and regain mental stability.

"The devil is in the details," Wolfinger said.

The sheriff, who took office this month, is opposed to other proposals being weighed by the federal government, he said. Like the renewal of an expired ban on semi-automatic weapons.

"I think it's unconstitutional," he said.

Wolfinger affirmed that he believes in the oath he took to support the U.S. and Idaho constitutions.

"I hate to say, 'Yeah, I support the second amendment,'" Wolfinger said. "You support the constitution as a whole. It's a package deal."

Other recent tragedies reveal that guns aren't the issue, Wolfinger added in his statement.

The problem is the people who commit crimes, he wrote.

"Did you read where a man in China stabbed 20 students the same week as the tragedy in Connecticut? No one is asking for a ban on kitchen knives," he stated.

No students died from that attack in the village of Chengping in Henan province on December 14, the same day as the Sandy Hook massacre.

Wolfinger further alluded to Timothy McVeigh’s truck-bomb attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing nearly 170 individuals.

"No one wanted to outlaw Ryder trucks, fertilizer diesel fuel," Wolfinger argued. "Joseph Duncan used a hammer, but we don't control hand tools."

The focus should be "on the assailant themselves," Wolfinger stated, not the weapons they use.

Wolfinger encouraged citizens to shower their Congressional delegation with facts and opinions on the issue.

That way, the federal representatives  "will be well equipped to fight the looming battle before them" as the proposals become bills, he stated.

Wolfinger assured he will continue to follow his oath and perform the sheriff's duties to the best of his ability.

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