Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel recently made national news as he is the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in the county in which an ongoing dispute rages between local gold miners and the Bureau of Land Management. However, his recent comments about a state-level gun control proposal may present some clues as to where his loyalties lie in the local BLM mining dispute. The Oath Keepers, a group of ex-and-current military and law enforcement professionals who have sworn to disobey orders that violate the US Constitution and who have sided with local gold miners in the dispute, also staged a protest earlier this week at the Josephine County Jail against Oregon Senate Bill 941, which would expand background checks on gun sales to include private transfers between individuals. OregonLive notes that the bill passed the Oregon Senate this week. Next up, the proposal faces a vote in the House, where it is expected to pass.
According to The Herald and News, Sheriff Daniel responded to the Oath Keepers’ protest by saying that he feels that the proposed law might violate his county’s charter, which protects gun rights, and that, because those who violate it would only be charged with a Class-B misdemeanor, he will not and can not enforce it if it were to pass. Said Daniel in comments to The Daily Courier, “I can’t enforce that law, so therefore it won’t be enforced. It doesn’t fit on my scale of priorities… I have felonies going on daily in Josephine County. That’s my priority.”
After the protest concluded, Sheriff Daniel met with Josephine County Oath Keepers representative Joseph Rice, who was tepidly optimistic about the Sheriff’s response to the protest. The Oath Keepers group is pushing for Sheriff Daniel to ignore the law if it passes, citing constitutional concerns over gun rights.
Sheriff Daniel told The Herald and News that he had expressed to Rice that he felt like he was caught in the middle of a dispute between his county’s citizens and the state and noted that, in this case, state law might supersede his county’s charter. However, he maintained that, even if it does pass and becomes law, he lacks the resources to enforce it.
Oath Keepers representative Joseph Rice stood firm on principle and said that Sheriff Daniel is “trying to sit on the fence” and “trying to have it both ways” in how he is discussing the gun background check proposal, while cautioning that he understands the Sheriff’s concerns and wants “to be fair with him.”
Senate Bill 941’s text notes that it would require that individuals buying firearms from private sellers obtain a criminal background check through a professional gun dealer.