On Wednesday, most of the 58 sheriffs in California convene in the Coachella Valley for the next California State Sheriff’s Association board meeting, where gun legislation will likely be discussed.
In his letter, Sniff said he thinks people universally support efforts to keep firearms “out of the hands of those who should not have them,” but called Feinstein’s proposal a “pretext gun control” bill with unreasonable and unnecessary regulations.
“It places legitimate citizens, both now and in the future, at potential risk of not being able to lawfully defend themselves, or to participate in legitimate recreational shooting sports that should be available to all across our great nation,” Sniff wrote. “In the end, I believe this proposed bill will cause far more harm than any good.”
Feinstein wrote the original assault weapons ban, which became law in 1994 and expired in 2004. It would ban the sale, transfer, importation or manufacturing of about 150 named firearms, plus certain rifles, handguns and shotguns fitted for detachable magazines and having at least one military characteristic.
Sniff, who said the state badly needs money for overcrowded jails and state prisons to help enforce any of its laws, said the bill “unreasonably impinges on the Second Amendment” and focuses largely on legitimate firearms in widespread use.“The cosmetic issues alone cause far too much meaningless complexity for law enforcement officers, and worse, could cause common citizens to unintentionally commit crimes that have serious potential sanctions,”.
Riverside CA Sheriff's Office is the second largest in California and one of the largest in the United States.
Here is the full text of Sheriff Sniff's letter:
Sheriff Stanley Sniff, Riverside County, California February 1, 2013
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein Washington DC
Re: Opposed to "Assault Weapons Ban of 2013"
Dear Senator Feinstein:
I serve as the elected Sheriff of Riverside County and have done so since 2007. Riverside County, at nearly 2.3 million residents, is California's 4th most populous, as well as the 4th largest in sheer physical size at 7,300 sq miles, of our State's 58 counties. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department, at nearly 2,200 sworn employees and nearly 4,000 full-time employees is the 5th largest of California's police and sheriff's departments. In addition to providing court security, coroner operations, and jail operations, the Sheriff's department provides police services under contract to 17 of our county's 28 cities.
I have served in full-time sworn California law enforcement since 1975, first as a city police officer, and then within the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. I also was commissioned as an Army officer and retired from the Army Reserve as a colonel after 30 years of service. I have had over 4 decades of participation in the various shooting sports, and am very familiar with public safety, the criminal justice system, military weapons, and the firearms policy issues involved in both past and current debates on gun control.
I have taken the time to review the materials your office has put out publicly on your recently proposed federal legislation "Assault Weapons ban of 2013." Although our state and local law enforcement agencies do not enforce federal laws, and you have served our State well over many years in many ways, I do not support this proposed legislation, and I recommend others in Congress also oppose it.
In many ways your bill unreasonably impinges on the Second Amendment, and it focuses largely on purely "cosmetic" features of legitimate sporting, hunting and recreational firearms already in widespread use within our nation. The cosmetic issues alone cause far too much meaningless complexity for law enforcement officers, and worse, could cause common citizens to unintentionally commit crimes that have serious potential sanctions.
What really concerns me is that the term "assault weapon or assault rifle" is a misnomer, coined by gun control advocates that also incorrectly use that term with the phrase "weapons of war (or, "weapons from the battlefield") have no business on our civilian streets," in an effort to frighten or confuse the public. Even a little research will underscore that military "assault rifles" fire fully automatic, or 3-round burst, and that military feature is their defining characteristic. These civilian-style semi-automatic rifles are essentially no different — other than cosmetics — than millions of other semi-automatic rifles used by civilians for hunting, competition and sporting purposes — for generations of Americans for over a century.
Many of our state and local law enforcement agencies authorize these very same civilian-style semi-automatic rifles that are subject to your ban for self-purchase, in lieu of spending increasingly scarce taxpayer collars, to practice with and to use on-duty as patrol rifles in order to defend themselves, for use at the distance we see in our rural areas. It would seem that same self-defense use for our citizens, not in law enforcement, in much of our nation's rural areas, should also be part of their inherent right pursuant to the Second Amendment. In this same fashion, some of the shotguns you seek to ban are used by our officers and should also be available to citizens for hunting, recreation and self-defense as well. Again the cosmetic attributes seem to be the defining criteria.
The central target of your proposed bill — the AR-15 series platform — is probably the most prolific rifle platform in our country today. It is enormously popular because it is "uniquely American," modular, adaptable for the size and sex of the user, and is capable of multiple uses: hunting, competition, recreational shooting and self-defense. Because of the generally high costs involved in those rifles, it is relatively rare that law enforcement comes into contact with them in contrast to smaller, more concealable, and cheaper firearms.
The AR-15 series semi-automatic rifle is literally a modern American "musket," and that is evidenced by the massive panic-buying going today as a result of your proposed bill and still others at the state level.
I think all of us universally support increased efforts in keeping firearms (and other weapons) out of the hands of those who should not have them, and increased sanctions for those who willfully misuse them. In your own State, California, we could dearly use greatly increased funding for our overcrowded local jails and state prisons, so that those very sanctions would have meaning and deterrent value.
I thank you for your long and distinguished service to our State and to our Nation, but I urge you to abandon this bill, as it is really a "pretext gun control" bill for increased regulations that are unreasonable and unnecessary. And, I believe it is overreaching within the context of our Second Amendment. It places legitimate citizens, both now and in the future, at potential risk of not being able to lawfully defend themselves, or to participate in legitimate recreational shooting sports that should be available to all across our great nation. In the end, I believe this proposed bill will cause far more harm than any good.
I remain at your service, and can be reached in Riverside at (951)955-0147 or firstname.lastname@example.org for any further information or questions.
Sincerely, Stan Sniff, Sheriff Riverside County Sheriff's Department cc: The Honorable Barbara Boxer, United States Senator