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Sometimes You Feel Like A Gun Nut

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

I am a strong supporter of the right to keep and bear arms, as embodied in the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. When the founders said well regulated militia, I believe they were referring to private citizens, not the army, national guard or local police force. In order to secure a free state, you sometimes have to fight fire with fire, and I believe it’s our constitutional right to defend ourselves from the (hypothetical) zombie hordes to come.

It’s not necessarily a position I like stating publicly, what with a mass shooting happening at some school, movie theater or place of worship across the country on a near-weekly basis. That’s why I have to hand it to Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko.

Bosenko has balls. Consider the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. While the rest of us were still processing the murder of 20 children and 6 adults by a mentally ill young man at a Connecticut elementary school, the sheriff rifled off a letter to Vice President Joe Biden.

“History of gun control within the United States has demonstrated it’s ineffective,” he informed the vice president in a rant unfortunately riddled with numerous stylistic errors. “The states with most restrictive gun laws continue to have some of the highest crime rates and gun related crimes, including California.”

I think what Bosenko was trying say is that people in rural areas like Shasta County don’t agree with city slickers when it comes to gun control legislation. Anyway, he concluded his missive to the vice president with a pledge to keep us all safe.

“I will strongly oppose any attempts to undermine our constitutional rights or impose unlawful regulations or actions against our citizens.”

Strong words, and we can rest assured the sheriff has temerity in the wake of national tragedies. True, it’s somewhat disconcerting that his office apparently lacks a proof reader or a discernible communications strategy, other than posting this error-ridden document on the sheriff’s office home page. Fortunately, I can help.

Always remember to use articles such as “the” at the beginning of a sentence. Never use unnecessary capitalization; it looks silly and sounds unprofessional. Always conclude your letter with a valediction, perhaps “sincerely” in this case, because it’s just plain rude to omit it.

If they had asked me — and I am available — I would have suggested writing the president of the United States. We missed an excellent chance to end the letter with, “Thanks, Obama!”

Still, I give the Sheriff of Shasta County a C for having the cojones to stand up while our nation was grieving.

Last month he went beyond the call of duty once again, defending gun owners everywhere by convincing 29 unwitting California county sheriffs to collectively sue the city of Los Angeles, which had the audacity to pass a local ordinance restricting the size of weapon magazines to 10 rounds.

The Los Angeles ordinance makes possession of magazines with more than 10 rounds a misdemeanor and requires gun owners to turn them in or risk being charged. Obviously, from a pro-gun rights perspective, that is totally unacceptable.

“Legislators are quick to legislate gun matters, but yet nothing is done to address persons with mental illness or hold the criminal accountable for their crime,” Bosenko told the Record Searchlight, and not ironically.

The thing is, like that old Almond Joy candy bar commercial, sometimes you feel like a gun nut … and sometimes you don’t.

Consider the case of James Benno.

As I’ve previously reported, Benno, a well known Shasta County medical marijuana advocate, was maintaining a 99-plant medical marijuana collective when it was raided by the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agents in May, 2014.

Benno and his two sons were unarmed, but deputies searched the house and found assorted firearms, including a .22, a shotgun and an unloaded, cased AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle with nine 30-round magazines stored in Benno’s closet.

Deputies carted off the plants and dirt to the landfill, confiscated the guns and ammo and charged Benno and his two sons with 17 felonies, including nine counts for the nine 30-round AR-15 magazines. Bail was set at $500,000 for each Benno.

Still out on bail and awaiting trial some 18 months later, James Benno maintains he was operating his medical marijuana collective in accordance with state law. A jury of his peers just might be inclined to agree with him, and prosecutors will do anything to keep such cases from going to trial. That requires leverage — and that’s where gun control laws come in handy.

As Sheriff Bosenko wisely informed the Record Searchlight, criminals don’t follow gun control regulations. That’s kind of the point. Those nine 30-round magazines found in Benno’s closet represent a tremendous amount of potential leverage.

Problem is, the sheriff — and other law enforcement officials who publicly advocate against gun control — are working at cross-purposes with prosecutors. For example, Benno is charged with violating state regulations which after 15 years of legal wrangling make it illegal to import, sale or manufacture large capacity magazines, but not possess them.

Benno maintains he didn’t import, sell or manufacture anything. A jury of his peers just might be inclined to believe him. You know how those country folk are about their guns.

According to James Benno, Shasta County has offered to drop all the charges against him and his sons if Benno himself will plead guilty to importing the magazines for sale. The DA’s office doesn’t comment on ongoing cases, but assistant prosecutors have been tossing the case around like a hot potato. Thanks, Bosenko!

No attorney, as far as I know, has scrawled that on a courthouse bathroom stall so far, but it’s only a matter of time.

There’s still hope. Sheriff Bosenko understands the best way to prevent Sandy Hooks is to provide better mental healthcare services. From a public relations perspective, this could be a far more fruitful avenue.