ZEBULON — Roles were reversed Wednesday night as three North Carolina sheriffs were questioned by gun enthusiasts concerned about the future of their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The Fargo Cattle Company Steakhouse was filled with hundreds of gun owners and several local politicians for an emergency meeting called by the Moccasin Creek Minutemen, whose approximately 100 members describe themselves as Constitutionalists.
Because no standing room remained in the restaurants banquet hall, many listened to the meeting through speakers in the parking lot when Franklin County Sheriff Jerry Jones, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison and Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders took the microphone.
Eight hours earlier, President Barack Obama announced proposals and executive actions that would, among other things, ban certain assault weapons and tighten the nations system of background checks.
Those attending Wednesday nights meeting repeatedly asked the same question: Will North Carolina sheriffs, under any circumstance, ever enforce federal laws that required them to seize certain firearms?
Winders said obeying an executive order is not in the law, not in the Constitution, and declared: Im not going to be going around taking guns from law-abiding citizens. Harrison said theyd be obliged to enforce (the law).
Their answers were met with outbursts that questioned their oath to uphold the Constitution.
Theres a line Ive drawn for myself, said Mark Barnes of Knightdale, pausing to look directly at Harrison. Do not come to my house and take my guns.
Joe Taylor, a member of the Minutemen who organized the event, stepped in front of Harrison at one point and waved his arms in an attempt to restore order to the room.
You may not like what you hear, but at least let (the sheriffs) say it, Taylor said.
Taylor said prior to the meeting that he intended for it to be educational not political. While the speakers mostly focused on local gun laws, however, many audience members said they were more interested in hearing the sheriffs political views.
Bobby Pittman of Wilson says hes concerned that he may have to curb his recreational shooting of AR-15 rifles because of new restrictions or bans.
I wanted to know if the sheriff had my back, Pittman said. Tonight, I learned my Second Amendment rights arent as God-given as I thought.