SANDPOINT — Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler is letting the public know where he stands as the debate over gun control rages in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve been a strong advocate of the Second Amendment and I’m always going to stand up to make sure that those rights are protected,” Wheeler said on Thursday.
As officials around the nation react to President Barack Obama’s $500 million effort to control gun violence in the wake of last month’s Sandy Hook massacre, Wheeler said his office has fielded a number of requests from the public asking what his position is on the issue.
In response, Wheeler posted a message to his department’s website which urges the public to reach out to local, state and federal officials to push back against 23 executive actions proposed by the Obama administration to enhance gun control regulations.
“I felt obligated to present my position,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler said in the posting that he took an oath of office on Monday to, among other things, uphold the U.S. Constitution.
“Nowhere in my oath did I agree to uphold the arbitrary wishes of a President who strays outside his Constitutional authority,” Wheeler said in the online message.
Obama’s proposal includes the establishment of universal background checks for gun buyers, and prohibiting military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Meanwhile, people in Bonner County are voicing concerns that the names and addresses of those who possess concealed weapons permits will be publicized by the media, as was done by The Journal News in New York state after the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn.
“I know that that’s been a topic of conversation around coffee shops and people I’ve talked to are wondering what’s going to happen here in Idaho,” Wheeler said.
There are currently 1,742 people in Bonner County with concealed weapons permits, according to sheriff’s office records.
But Wheeler said Idaho Code specifically prohibits his office from disclosing such information under the state’s public records law.
“That information absolutely will never be released from this office,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler’s contention is backed up by an email exchange between state Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, and Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane obtained by The Daily Bee.
Kane said in the Jan. 3 email that information regarding an applicant or licensee is deemed confidential under the Idaho Public Records Act.
“In other words, information gathered and maintained by the county sheriff or the state police for the purpose of processing and maintaining concealed weapons applications is exempt from disclosure to the public,” Kane wrote.
Wheeler said his office has not been presented with any public records requests for such information from news or other organizations.
The sheriff’s office, however, is seeing an uptick in applications for permits to carry a concealed weapon. Wheeler said his office has received 35 new applications and 10 renewals in the four last days.
“We’re issuing a lot of concealed weapons permits as a result of what’s happening in Washington, D.C.,” said Wheeler.