Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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July 31, 2013

Sheriff talks guns, Trayvon Martin, school shootings

GOSHEN — Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers takes his oath of office and gun rights seriously. He wishes other government officials would do the same.

Rogers talked about the United States Constitution, his oath of office, and the Second Amendment while at a Monday night meeting of the tea party group, Elkhart County Patriots. Rogers has become a local speaker on these themes. He even appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN earlier this year as part of a panel talking about gun rights.

“Why all the fuss and why as a sheriff am I even getting involved in all this? Rogers asked the crowd of about 80 that packed the library’s basement meeting room. “Well, it happened on my first day of being sheriff. I went to the Circuit Court judge and I asked him to give me the oath of office, so I raised my right hand and put my left hand on the Bible, my wife and family were present and I said I will swear to write speeding tickets and put people in jail and catch bad guys. No, that is not what I said.

“Yeah, a sheriff really does that because that is in the law, but what the oath of office said and our founding fathers were so wise in putting that oath of office in Article 6, Section 3 of the Constitution because they knew there would possibly be evil men or possibly people who made mistakes through the course of history and if every public official and elected official who took that oath of office would believe and uphold that oath, even though there would be evil men or people who made mistakes, we would survive as a republic.

“So, the oath of office really says, ‘I, Brad Rogers, will uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Indiana Constitution to the best of my ability, so help me God.’ That’s it.”

Rogers said American citizens are not taught about oaths these days, but the founding fathers took them very seriously as they had signed the Declaration of Independence, which put their lives at risk.

“If I can light a spark to be an example to others to uphold that oath, then that is important,” he said.

Rogers received a loud round of applause after the statement and similar approval was given as he spoke on the Second Amendment, which the Supreme Court has ruled allows private citizens to possess arms, but also allows the government to limit that right to a degree, through such actions as regulating the possession of automatic firearms.

Limited government

Rogers’ other theme was that he is all for limiting the role of the federal government and promoting state’s rights.

“What is the proper role of government? Rogers asked. “Is it to give us everything we want? Oftentimes we have an entitlement mentality in that regards. But you know we have inherent rights. Those are rights outlined in the Constitution. These are not rights the government has given us. These are inherent, inborn rights that we have. And the Constitution is there to guarantee the government is going to protect those rights. And that is where we are seeing the erosion today.”

Gun rights

The sheriff focused much of his talk on the Second Amendment.

“When I see at the federal level when they are trying to legislate restrictions or are trying to pass gun laws per se, I say legislation is not an option. You cannot legislate away our constitutional rights,” he said. “I will tell you how to do it. If they really want to do it, pass the 28th Amendment. Let’s see you do that. Pass the 28th Amendment that says we repeal the Second Amendment. That’s how it’s done. If you want to do it, that’s how you do it. Not in bits and pieces of legislation.”

Other gun issues

The trend in the United States has been for states to allow more people to carry concealed weapons for protection, something Rogers indicated he favors. Members of the audience threw a lot of “carry” questions at him. One man wanted to know if he could carry his gun into a bar. Yes, Rogers said.

But he added that Indiana businesses have a right to post a sign warning patrons that guns are not allowed on the premises.

Also, he said local police chiefs, the prosecutor and his office have a verbal agreement that if someone is carrying a gun legally and not causing any problems, law officers will not stop them and inquire if they have a license to carry their gun.

One man expressed concern that with the growing number of guns in American homes, children will have more access to guns and could easily take one to school.

“If you want to put more guns on the street, how are you going to keep them out of schools? One kid dying is too many. How are you going to keep them out of schools,” Mark Eash asked.

“Well, are we doing a good job of doing that now?” Rogers asked back.

“So far,” Eash said.” “Here. But other places are having trouble.”

“Well, school shootings are actually relatively rare. You are actually probably going to have a better chance of getting killed in an auto accident than getting killed in a school shooting,” Rogers said. “But if you are the parents of those kids who were in the school shooting, that’s certainly a melancholy situation.”

“But the thing about it is, instead of having a sign ‘this is a gun free zone,’ how about having a sign that says ‘armed staff on the premises.’ Nobody would know which staff it is. It might be the principal. It might be the janitor. But you just don’t know. Hopefully, when the bad guy goes up to the door and sees that, he is going to go to the other school that has the gun free zone.”

Does a gun have to be hidden to be carried legally, one man asked.

Rogers said those who have an Indiana license to carry a gun can carry it anyway they want.

“There is no such thing as concealed carry,” Rogers said. “There is no concealed carry law. I recommend concealed carry... Concealed carry gives you a tactical advantage over would-be attackers and doesn’t tip your hand until you want it tipped... You can have six-shooters on your hip and walk down the street if you want to. You are going to attract a little attention, but that is your right.”

Stand your ground

Several questions were about Hoosiers’ rights to self defense, particularly under the states “castle doctrine,” which allows people to defend themselves.

“If you have the right to be where you are. Other words, with your family in a park or walking along a sidewalk or somewhere, you have the right to stand your ground and the Indiana law supports that. Our legislators have been very conservative on that and very pro self defense in that,” the sheriff said.

Rogers added that state law does not require someone to retreat from a serious physical threat.

The stand your ground laws in many states are coming under scrutiny after a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman for shooting and killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin during a confrontation in his neighborhood. Martin’s mother is asking Florida’s legislators to repeal the law.

One question on a lot of minds came from the a member of the crowd. Did Rogers think the Zimmerman verdict was correct?

“I wasn’t there. I wasn’t in the trial and I try not to read everything the media tells me about it as the truth... But the thing is, in our criminal justice system we had a trial and the jurors found him not guilty,” Rogers said. “Justice was served, including, even if you want to go back to what some say was a travesty of justice, the O.J. Simpson trial. Like it or not, justice was served. In this life justice is not always going to be meted out in the best or proper way. So that is what we have to live with.”

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