Local sheriff under fire after gun rights rally in Zebulon

aspecht@newsobserver.comFebruary 9, 2013 

— A local sheriff is hoping a statement he posted on Facebook will ease concerns about his position on gun control and the Constitution.

Franklin County Sheriff Jerry Jones said he has received “countless” emails and letters since his participation at a Jan. 16 gun rights rally in Zebulon. During the rally, Jones, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison and Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders were repeatedly asked about their interpretation of the Second Amendment, and whether they would ever enforce federal laws requiring them to seize certain firearms.

Winders and Harrison took clear positions. Winders said he would never take guns from law-abiding citizens. Harrison said his office would be “obliged” to enforce a law requiring the seizure of firearms.

Jones didn’t provide a definitive answer. Harrison and Winders wielded the microphone for most of the night.

Jones said thousands of people called and emailed the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office wanting to know his views. “People asked me why I didn’t say more,” Jones said in a recent phone interview.

“And I got credited with some of the stuff Donnie (Harrison) said. That wasn’t good,” Jones said with a laugh.

So, in a 445-word statement he posted to the department’s Facebook page on Jan. 23, Jones wrote that he “will not participate in, nor enforce, any Unconstitutional Edicts, Orders or Laws handed down by any Government Body.

“As the highest ranking law enforcement officer within my jurisdiction I feel as though it is my duty to make this statement clear. No Law Abiding Citizen of Franklin County shall have their Constitutional Rights infringed upon,” Jones wrote.

By Feb. 4, the post had 250 comments, nearly 350 people had reposted it elsewhere on the Internet, and 963 clicked the “like” button attached to the post. Jones chose not to post the statement elsewhere, such as the department’s website. Jones and his deputies are trying to use Facebook more frequently because it usually prompts quicker feedback, he said.

Statistics show Jones is probably right. According to data that track information on Facebook, more than 2,900 people were “talking about” the Franklin County Sheriff’s Facebook page on Jan. 24 – up from 278 people on Jan. 16.

“(N)ow that’s a man we can put our faith in,” Diane Dille wrote, commenting on Jones’ post.

“Thank You! Sheriff Jones for announcing your position publicly,” Roger Lytle wrote.

The Moccasin Creek Minutemen, the Zebulon-based group of Constitutionalists that hosted the gun rights rally, reposted Jones’ statement to its website on Jan. 25.

“Looks like the MCMM meeting worked,” Joe Taylor, a Minutemen member, wrote as the headline above Jones’ letter when he reposted it to the group’s website.

Specht: 919-829-4826

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