Sheriff Neil Warren
The recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut has broken the hearts of millions of Americans and surfaced the need and demand to address violent criminal activity more aggressively — from a federal level, all the way to local enforcement that maintains a safe environment, not only for our children, but all citizens. As Cobb’s sheriff, that has and always will be my personal and professional goal. I take my oath as a Georgia Constitutional Officer seriously and will absolutely uphold the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Georgia, as well enforce state laws that serve and protect our community. In the past few weeks there has been an enormous amount of dialogue about guns, ammunition and legal possession of firearms. My strong support for the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution began well before my 37-year career with the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office. The principles contained in this amendment support the other rights and liberties guaranteed by our Constitution. Recently there has been a great deal of confusion and misinformation about the purpose of the Second Amendment. It is not, as some say, about hunting, target practice or even the right to own a gun collection. It is a reflection of our Founding Fathers very real understanding that no rights would be safe without the citizens having the means to defend and protect those rights. These same individuals had just fought a war against a repressive government to achieve their freedom. They knew very well what was required to maintain that freedom. Over the years, I have had discussions with individuals, liberal and some not so liberal, who were against the right to bear arms for a number of reasons. The argument most often repeated is the belief that to be against violence, you must oppose gun ownership. My response is simple. Guns are not the problem. The real problem facing society is the erosion of family and moral structure that in turn leads to increased criminal activity — with or without guns. Until we face the real problems plaguing our society and quit seeking the quick and often political fix that shadows the real issues, problems will continue to increase. In our American government, Congress and state legislatures make laws and courts interpret those laws and determine whether they pass constitutional muster. Although the president has the authority to issue Executive Orders, that authority is limited. Our Constitution delegates three branches that must balance to maintain the freedom and quality of our life — Executive, Legislative and Judicial. It is profoundly disappointing that many prominent leaders in our country have chosen to capitalize on the horrendous murder of innocent children to advance their political agenda of infringing on the right of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. Clearly this rush to implement new gun control regulations has been undertaken as a matter of political expediency. It is still too early to tell whether the recent gun control measures proposed by the president will be passed by Congress or what impact his executive orders may have on our citizens. The previous Assault Weapons Ban was part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The ban did little, if anything, to curb violent crime and made meaningless distinctions between banned and non-banned firearms. Since the ban expired in 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides for a personal right to keep and bear arms. This 2008 case — District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 — provides guidance and an interpretation of the U.S. Constitution that was not available in 1994 when the ban was passed. I believe this decision must be carefully considered before Congress or any other legislative body attempts to limit any rights of law abiding citizens to purchase and possess firearms. I firmly believe that at this critical point in our history, each of us must stand up and speak up by contacting our elected officials, including the president, to encourage them to act decisively to uphold the rights guaranteed all Americans by our Constitution. For my part, I intend to fully exercise the power and authority vested in me by my oath of office as Sheriff of Cobb County. It is my firm commitment to immediately challenge and seek injunctive relief from any statute or executive action which violates the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the citizens of Cobb County. Neil Warren is sheriff of Cobb County.