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Carroll County sheriff candidates discuss gun legislation, role of law enforcement

In 2013, Governor Martin O'Malley signed the Maryland Firearm Safety Act, banning the sale of 45 types of weapons, requiring fingerprinting for gun ownership, reducing the number of bullets magazines can legal hold and prohibiting the mentally ill from owning guns.

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners drafted a Second Amendment Preservation Resolution which declared Carroll as a Second Amendment Sanctuary County and opposed the firearm safety act last May.

The Maryland State Police Licensing Division is tasked with issuing permits, licenses and certifications for firearms.

In the primary election on June 24, three candidates will vie for election as the Republican candidate for Carroll County Sheriff to replace retiring Sheriff Ken Tregoning. One Democratic candidate is unopposed in the primary election. The Republican candidates are Jim DeWees, Chris Fiora and Phillip Kasten. The Democratic candidate is Vince Pacelli.

We asked the candidates: What do you see as the role of law enforcement officers in balancing enforcement of gun crimes and citizens' Second Amendment rights?

DeWees: It is the responsibility of law enforcement to enforce laws not interpret them. For any law enforcement official to say they will not enforce laws is inherently corrupt. If I say this, I cause citizens to be suspicious of what else I'm not enforcing. Well trained deputies using good discretion will always prevail. With that being said, I don't agree with the most recent laws in Maryland, restricting and hindering law-abiding citizens of owning firearms. As sheriff I determine what the resources of the office will be used for; and they won't be used to take weapons from law abiding citizens, but will be used to arrest those that illegally possess them. I support the NRA's attempt to have the most recent legislation deemed unconstitutional and will abide by the courts' decisions on the constitutionality of the new gun laws. I don't believe that fewer guns equal less violence.

Fiora: First and foremost, Second Amendment gun ownership is not a crime, it is a right. Gun crimes are when someone uses a gun illegally, and there are clear definitions of what constitutes illegal gun use. My goal as Sheriff is to make sure that guns are taken out of the hands of violent offenders and convicted felons while being available to the law-abiding citizens who want to protect their homes and families.

Kasten: The use of firearms in the commission of a crime enjoys no Second Amendment protections and must be swiftly investigated, prosecuted and enforced with the greatest of seriousness. On the other hand, the right to self-defense including the carry and use of a firearm for self-protection is protected. This a documented deterrent to crime and victimization, with research showing gun violence and mass shootings are less prevalent in those communities where law-abiding citizens are permitted to carry concealed handguns for self-protection. Law enforcement's role nationwide is in the approval of firearm dealer licenses, permitting of citizens that wish to carry and the facilitation of training when requested to empower the law-abiding public to protect itself. This process should be handled locally like the majority of states nationwide, as local law enforcement and prosecutors are best positioned to know who is not a law-abiding citizen, not the state.

Pacelli: As a member of the National Rifle Association for over 30 years, the Second Amendment is important to me. To start with, law enforcement leaders are not legislators; we do not make policy, but are the instruments of policy. We also have to remember that our elected officials govern by the consent of the governed. In balancing the enforcement of "gun crimes" and a citizen's Second Amendment right, it is important that we realize that the citizen is protected by the Second Amendment and that we do not seize a firearm or coerce the citizen to turn in their firearm outside of the scope of the law. We must also be mindful of the "spirit of the law," taking into consideration the intent of the alleged violator, and use our powers of reason and discretion.

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