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Gun violence: We get what we tolerate

4:15 pm March 28th, 2014

Paul Pastor is Pierce County's sheriff.

Paul Pastor is Pierce County’s sheriff.

By Paul Pastor
Recent events of mass murders committed by people with guns has focused national attention on guns and gun ownership. The Pierce County Sheriff Department has received multiple inquiries from people who are concerned with this issue. As the elected sheriff, it is fair to ask my view of these matters.
My approach is very simple. We will follow the law. That is our responsibility and that is the content of our oath of office. Ultimately, the law that we follow must be consistent with decisions of the United States Supreme Court.
What is the law ? The law regarding the Second Amendment has been settled recently by the U.S. Supreme Court in McDonald v. Chicago and D.C. v. Heller.
Both decisions hold that individuals have the right to possess and keep firearms. Whether you find this comforting or upsetting, the bottom line is that the Supreme Court has spoken and the right of individual gun ownership is the law of the land.
Many people have proposed solutions to the problem of gun violence. But there are no cheap, easy solutions.
I believe that we should more vigorously enforce existing laws regarding firearms. But to do so, we will need adequate resources in the form of information resources and personnel resources. Failure to provide either of these undermines our ability to enforce existing laws.
Most people can agree that mental illness and firearms are a dangerous combination. We need to develop legal ways to block people with serious mental problems from obtaining or possessing guns.
And gun owners need to step up to their responsibilities and not allow mentally ill friends or relatives access to guns.
Rights always come with responsibilities. Perhaps we need a national campaign supporting gun owner responsibilities as well as gun owner rights.
We definitely need a return to stronger values. We resort to violent rhetoric, violent language and violent actions too quickly and too easily. We get the things that we encourage or tolerate. And in America today, we are getting too much violence.

Sheriff Paul Pastor wrote this article for the Pierce County Sheriff Department’s web site.

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