By Russ Lay on February 4, 2013
In what had to be one of the more unusual speaking engagements by a local law enforcement official, Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie addressed the Outer Banks Tea Party this past Thursday.
An overflow crowd at the Western Sizzling restaurant in Kill Devil Hills was eager to hear Doughtie’s stance on constitutional issues, particularly as they related to proposed legislation on semi-automatic weapons, magazines and clips.
Various bills and comments from President Obama, Vice President Biden and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have raised concerns among many conservatives, libertarians and supporters of a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment.
Before taking questions from the audience, Doughtie spoke to the crowd and emphasized his support of Second Amendment rights.
While not directly stating opposition to possible legislation banning the sale and transfer of various types of weapons, accessories and ammunition, Doughtie urged the crowd to “stand up now for their rights.” He said he never thought “I would have to stand before you” and be concerned about gun ownership rights.
The vast majority of the Outer Banks Tea Party members were satisfied with the sheriff’s expression of support for gun ownership.
But a handful of attendees pressed Doughtie on hypothetical issues involving possible federal intervention in ownership of firearms.
Three members of the audience pointed to confiscation of guns by federal, state and local authorities in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. One asked Doughtie what he would do if President Obama sent “his goons” to seize guns in the aftermath of a local disaster.
Others broached the issue of “nullification,” a concept in which state or local governments refuse to enforce federal laws or executive orders they may deem contrary to the Constitution.
In nearby Beaufort County, the county Board of Commissioners, which consists of Democrats and Republicans, recently passed a resolution said to be the first in the nation that would nullify any restrictions on gun ownership considered unconstitutional by the county board. See video »
Other members of the audience cited the actions of Linn County, Oregon Sheriff Tim Mueller, who sent a letter to Vice President Biden saying he would refuse to enforce “any federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the President offending the constitutional rights of my citizens.”
Doughtie said his office would uphold the Constitution and laws passed by Congress. He told the audience that his office was not bound by executive orders the president might sign.
The sheriff also said he was not willing to “dance on the same thin line” as his Oregon counterpart.
At least two members of the audience tried to force Doughtie to state whether he would actively intervene against federal officials who might attempt to confiscate guns under a martial law or “state of emergency” scenario.
The same audience members also pressed Doughtie on whether his office would allow federal agents to commit search and seizure actions they felt were violations of the Fourth Amendment.
The sheriff reiterated his office would not contravene laws passed by Congress nor would the sheriff’s office prevent federal law enforcement agencies from exercising their authority in situations where their jurisdiction was clearly established.
At one point, during a rather terse exchange between the sheriff and two audience members, Doughtie rejected arguments that interpretation of “natural rights” and “inalienable rights” such as those mentioned in the Constitution required him and his deputies to resist, or even “fight” with federal law enforcement officials deemed in violation of those rights.
Former Manteo police chief and unsuccessful 2012 Republican primary candidate for the Dare County Board of Commissioners Francis D’Ambra spoke several times, supporting Doughtie’s positions and reminding the audience of the balance between federal and local law enforcement jurisdictions.
D’Ambra also cautioned the crowd not to overstate the ability of federal authorities to deploy enough personnel for confiscation and search and seizure under the worst-case scenarios that concerned some members of the audience.