Douglas county sheriff John Hanlin pauses while speaking to media after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg Oregon
An Oregon sheriff leading the emergency response to Thursday’s mass shooting at a community college once fought a White House push for stricter gun control in the wake of the 2012 Newtown school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead.
A shooter killed at least nine people and wounded 20 more at Umpqua Community College in the town of Roseburg before being shot dead by police, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin confirmed in a press conference Thursday afternoon.
“Typically I would say, ‘Good afternoon,’” Hanlin said to reporters before detailing what was known of the tragedy that struck his community. “Obviously today here in southern Oregon is not a good afternoon. It’s a terrible day.”
As Hanlin shared details of the shooting tragedy, documents emerged to show that in 2013 he wrote to Vice President Joe Biden to argue against tougher gun laws.
In January 2013, a month after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Hanlin wrote a letter to Biden to request that the Obama administration not push for tighter gun restrictions and to let officials know that if stricter laws passed, he would not enforce them.
Mother Jones, which first uncovered the letter, reports that Hanlin was one of hundreds of sheriffs to vow that they would not enforce laws perceived to infringe on the right to bear arms as outlined in the Second Amendment.
“Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings,” Hanlin wrote. “Any actions against or in disregard for our U.S. Constitution and 2nd Amendment rights by the current administration would be irresponsible and an indisputable insult to the American people.”
Hanlin also voiced his support in the letter for Linn County, Ore., Sheriff Tim Mueller, who said politicians were exploiting the deaths of innocent victims to try to pass laws that would prevent law-abiding Americans from owning firearms or ammunition magazines.
“The United States Supreme Court has ruled that when a Sheriff chooses to enforce an unconstitutional directive,” Hanlin said, “he is violating his Constitutional Oath. I will NOT violate my Constitutional Oath.”
Hours after the shooting Thursday, President Obama opened his address to the media and the American people by saying that he has been to Roseburg and knows that there are “really good people.” He also thanked first responders there for very likely saving lives.
“In the coming days we’ll learn about the victims, young men and women who were studying and learning and working hard — their eyes set on the future, their dreams, on what they could make of their lives,” Obama said. “And America will wrap everyone who is grieving with our prayers and our love.”
And he reiterated a point that he made just a few months ago in an address after the South Carolina church shooting that left nine parishioners dead.
“Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough,” he said. “It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel, and it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America next week or a couple of months from now.”