Taxpayer Funded Lobbying: Law Enforcement Swarms Capitol To Oppose Pro-Gun Bills

The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering several pro-gun bills today. The bills being considered would allow concealed carry in schools, churches and other public gatherings, allow the sale of guns and ammunition during declared emergencies (and prohibit the seizure of the same) and prohibit the use of state resources to enforce any new federal gun laws.

And on hand in the capitol to oppose these bills is a swarm of law enforcement officials from all over the state. “The law enforcement presence is excessive,” one observer told me, and it’s hard to argue.

Here’s a list of the agencies who have personnel present:

Cass County Sheriff’s Department
Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department
Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
ND Bureau of Criminal Investigation
Morton County Sheriff’s Department
Stark County Sheriff’s Department
City of Mandan Police Department
University of North Dakota Campus Police
City of Bismarck Police Department
City of West Fargo Police Department
City of Jamestown Police Department
Stutsman County Police Department
Grand County Sheriff’s Department
Walsh County Sheriff’s Department

Also, a legislative source forwarded to me an email chain initiated by Assistant Chief Mike Reitan with the subject line “talking points for HB1183.” HB1183 is the bill regarding using state resources to implement federal gun control policy.

The email chain, the entirety of which is below, is illuminating for what it shows about law enforcement attitudes toward gun rights. It ranges from support among a minority of law enforcement officers to hostility and a sense that relationships with federal law enforcement (not to mention federal grand dollars) are more important than gun rights. Also attached tot he email were the talking points themselves which not only oppose HB1183 but urge law enforcement officials to back federal gun control laws such as a crack down on gun show sales and tougher penalties for existing gun control laws.

Now, agree or disagree with the position of these law enforcement agencies/officers, what’s problematic is that they are essentially lobbying for a position on an issue with taxpayer dollars. No doubt their travel to the capitol was paid for by taxpayers. They used their official positions of authority as law enforcement officers to lend weight to their arguments.

Yet, citizens who oppose their positions on gun control must do so using their own resources. The taxpayers don’t pay for the average citizen to show up at the legislature and stick up for the 2nd amendment. But law enforcement officers showing up to undermine the 2nd amendment? They get paid to do it. It’s one thing for law enforcement to talk about the practical implications of a given piece of legislation. It’s quite another for law enforcement to mobilize as anti-gun lobbyists.

This sort of taxpayer funded lobbying is inappropriate. Also, many of these law enforcement agencies are headed by elected officials. Maybe it’s time for voters to make some changes.

Here’s the email exchange, talking points below:

From: Michael D. Reitan [mailto:Michael.Reitan@westfargond.gov] Sent: Monday, March 18, 2013 11:15 AM
To: Hogue, David J.; Sitte, Margaret A.; Lyson, Stanley W.; Armstrong, Kelly; Berry, Spencer D.; Grabinger, John; Nelson, Carolyn C.
Subject: RE: talking points for HB1183

Good Morning Chairman Hogue and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee

I have attached information about HB1183 relating to the prohibition to assist Federal Law Enforcement agencies and the enforcement of Federal weapons laws passed after 1 Jan 2013. I have highlighted comments within the attached document and included comments from a variety of officers from around the state which voice their opposition to HB1183.

Respectfully Submitted
Mike Reitan, Assistant Chief
Assistant Chief Mike Reitan
West Fargo Police Department
800 4th Ave E
West Fargo, 58078
701-433-5500
fax 433-5508
mike.reitan@westfargond.gov
FBINA202

It’s Not about being Right, It’s about doing Right

This e-mail message is intended only for the named recipient above and is covered by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 2510-2521. This e-mail is confidential and may contain information that is privileged, or exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If you have received this message in error, please immediately notify the sender by return e-mail and delete this e-mail message from your computer.

As an agency that works closely with the our local Federal agents this bill has great concern for me as an administrator. The operational overview that would be required of my officers to avoid becoming involved in an investigation that ‘may’ involve a violation of a not yet passed restricted firearms law and their need to recuse themselves any time a firearm or ammunition entered the investigation would render them ineffective. I personally view the need to have the ability to work with the Federal authorities on an investigation relating to my community as vitally important. To not be able to use Federal resources to continue an investigation that extends across state lines could send a viable case to the dead files as we do not possess the ability, resources or staff to pursue the case to the end.

Additionally, any of my staff who may release information to a Federal authority would be required to query the requestor to ensure no violation occurred. To refuse to provide the information would put us at odds with ND Administrative Code and the NDCC.

Do I see my agency actively pursuing Federal firearms charges? No, no more than we currently enforce immigration law. My agency has transferred cases from State to Federal Court to take advantage of sentencing guidelines. Will we no longer be able to do so when there is a weapon involved? I believe this is bad law that we cannot presently foresee the outcome. Yes, I have seen other states that are currently working to pass similar laws. I am not sure if any have actually passed. Being no Federal law has been passed to this point, the potential impact has not been seen. This is a bill generated out of emotion and a bad bill. If the desire is to do something, request an interim study, wait for the Feds to pass a bill, then react to the known.

My opinion,

Mike Reitan
West Fargo Police

Mike,

You hit the nail on the head with your comments. As a rapidly growing agency in Western North Dakota, who is beginning to work with federal authorities on a regular basis, this bill would make our job much more difficult.

Dustin Dassinger
Dickinson Police

Mike,

Although some of the amendments to HB1183 seem to mitigate potential harm to North Dakota law enforcement, I remain adamantly opposed to this bill.

Nullification didn’t work in the past and seems unlikely to work any better at present. I believe the legislature would be better off basing their reaction upon actualities as opposed to potentialities,.

Although many of it’s teeth have been pulled, HB1183 continues to put ND Law Enforcement in between a rock and a hard place.

I totally agree with what you wrote in your email. Very well stated.

Scott Thorsteinson
Wahpeton Police Department

Hi Mike,

The comment was made at the last combined Chief’s and Sheriff’s meeting that we already have the discretion to assist a federal agency. I am opposed to the legislature telling me I will be convicted of a crime if I assist another law enforcement officer or agency. In fact, I find the very idea insulting. The decision to assist rests with the Chief or the Sheriff of the jurisdiction. If the penal language has been permanently removed then the issue is partially resolved. Additionally, I would question the constitutionality of the proposed legislation in it’s entirety.
Thanks.

-Mike Frannea
Ellendale Chief of Police
701-349-2093

All,

I agree for the most part with much of the comments here, but I would like to interject some points.
First off is that there is no doubt the relationships with Federal Agents are important. However, I know several Federal Officers who do not support the weapons ban proposed. Bottom line as with anything is the communication and relationship with these Federal Officers is key, so keep that going no matter what.

Having said that, I do not support any part of the bill that makes it a “Crime” for any officer to deal with issue.

On the other hand, I believe completely in the 10th Amendment and State Rights. I would like to see our state pass a bill that would reject any ban that the Federal Government puts forth. One of the comments below mentioned that other states have already done similar laws with no problems and I agree. Montana is one and I think Oklahoma is just proposing an exemption for all weapons made and sold in their state.

My final point would be this. It is too late in the game to propose something new and I would like to see the state pass something in opposition to the federal ban, but as written I do not like this bill. I wish I had heard about this earlier in the game to give some input on it before it got to this point.

I am very pro 2nd Amendment, pro gun and even pro open carry. I worked with it for 9 years in Montana and never had a problem beyond what anyone else has, maybe even less. I know for a fact I had less problems in Montana than what I am experiencing in the Bakken.
Thank you and everyone be safe.

Art Walgren
Chief of Police
New Town

Mike,

Sorry it took me a bit to get back to you I have been swamped lately.

I am attaching a link to the Montana Law, which is probably much like that if the Oklahoma one I referred to. They do only govern firearms made and kept in the state. Here is the link which is under Title 30, Chapter 20 of Montana Code Annotated.
http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/mca/30/20/30-20-104.htm

You will note that there is no provision involving law enforcement officers in it. It simply rejects Federal regulation of weapons and ammunition manufactured and kept within Montana.

I hope this helps.

As far as not seeing it sooner, I may not have been clear enough because I was a bit rushed in my response. The problem was on my end in not reading through it better. I simply glanced at it because I was busy.

The point I was trying to make is that I value the relationships with our Federal partners just as much as the next guy. I also know that we are bound to enforce the law whether or not we like it. My comments were intended to mean that I would of liked to have seen more input from the law enforcement community about putting the bill together to begin with. We then could have avoided where we are, because my opinion is I would like to see something in place to resist what I think would be an unlawful executive order by the President.

I hope I explained it better this time.

Thank you for all you do.

Art Walgren
Chief of Police
New Town

Senator Luick,

I am writing you in response to the recent passing of HB 1183. As it finds its way to the Senate floor, I want you to know that as a law enforcement officer in your district I am adamantly opposed to this bill.

HB 1183 is a knee jerk reaction to the 23 executive actions President Obama signed following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It is a blanket policy towards law enforcement not allowing us to assist any federal agency during their investigation of federal firearms laws put in to effect after Jan. 1, 2013. It does not take in to account that maybe some good federal laws be passed in the future. I am pro second amendment; I grew up hunting and there were guns in my house.

I will raise my three sons the same way. With that being said, passing HB 1183 is not a way to protect the second amendment rights of North Dakotans.

HB 1183 would handcuff local law enforcement and not allow us to help fellow federal law enforcement officers. HB 1183 started with charging local law enforcement with an A misdemeanor for assisting a federal agency and we lose our jobs for five years. They have since amended that to a civil action taken against the agency not the officer. Rep. Grande wants to include charging any federal agent with a C felony if they enforce laws enacted after Jan. 1, 2013. Who is supposed to enforce this? If we arrest a federal agent, there will be one outcome, spending time in a federal prison. If we fail to act on a federal warrant, we will end up in federal prison. As law enforcement, we are obligated to act and assist. HB 1183 essentially puts cop vs. cop and that is a terrible solution to non-existing federal laws.

As a sergeant for the Wahpeton Police Department, I am also a member of the Chiefs of Police Association. The Chiefs of Police Association unanimously voted to oppose HB 1183, but did not make our opposition clear enough to the House members. It was thought that HB 1183 would die on its own merit as being a knee jerk reaction and a bill written out of fear. It did not, so now it is time to be vocal about our opposition to this terrible bill.

I would hope that at times of unrest in this nation, our elected officials would be the ones with level heads and be unwavering in their leadership, not too quick to judge and not too quick to respond in a negative manner to federal laws that aren’t in effect.

Unfortunately, your colleague’s Senators Larsen, Miller and Sitte do not feel the same way as they co-sponsored this bill.

Representatives Wall and Williams opposed this bill and I ask that you consider doing the same. Also let it be known to your fellow Senators that law enforcement officers in North Dakota overwhelmingly oppose HB 1183.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, do not hesitate to contact me at 701-640-8508 or email me at mwanderson@nd.gov.

Sincerely,

Sgt. Matthew Anderson
Wahpeton Police Department

A telephone conversation with Keith Ternes Chief of Police, Fargo, indicated his strong opposition to HB1183. Ternes indicated this bill, if passed, would severely hamper his department’s ability to investigate drug and other serious felony crimes relating to gun violence. Ternes offered to do what is necessary to ensure the defeat of this bill.

US Attorney Tim Purdon and Assistant US Attorney Lynn Jordheim at a meeting with local law enforcement executives indicated they are closely monitoring the bill. While they cannot comment directly to the passage of the bill they are concerned about its implications on the future of joint law enforcement operations within North Dakota and across state lines.

"Talking Points" For ND Law Enforcement Against Pro-Gun Bills

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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