WatchSonoma Watch

Sonoma County sheriff offers middle ground on guns


Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas told gun rights supporters Tuesday night that he favors a middle ground with respect to restricting guns, even as he acknowledged that the state’s current assault weapons law has on one occasion left his staff baffled.

Freitas was speaking on a panel at a forum sponsored by the county’s Republican Central Committee. Among the panelists were Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, and a leader of the gun rights group Calguns Foundation.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, right, (R-Victorville and founder of California Minutemen) listens as Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas, left, spoke during a Gun Advocates forum held at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa, Tuesday, April 16, 2013. (Crista Jeremiason / PD)

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, right, (R-Victorville and founder of California Minutemen) listens as Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas, left, spoke during a Gun Advocates forum held at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa, Tuesday, April 16, 2013. (Crista Jeremiason / PD)

Freitas acknowledged he had yet to decide personally where to draw the line between allowing unlimited gun rights and prohibiting all gun possession. But he asked the audience of more than 170 people to consider every friend, family member and acquaintance they know.

“Should they all have a loaded gun all the time?” Freitas asked. “I have some family members who shouldn’t.”

Even so, Freitas said he was pleased by the U.S. Supreme Court decisions establishing an individual’s right to possess firearms in certain circumstances. He also suggested that he has provided more concealed weapons permits than his predecessor.

Freitas said the Attorney General’s Office “went bonkers” when he threw up his hands on whether a particular rifle confiscated locally fell under the state’s assault weapons ban.

Freitas said neither the deputies who seized the weapon nor his department’s firearms experts could determine whether the rifle in question was actually illegal. The sheriff turned to the state for help and found “the Department of Justice can’t figure it out.” In the end, he said he found the law so confusing that he told the firearm’s owner, “you win.”

The audience broke out in applause Tuesday when the moderator in his introduction noted that Donnelly “had founded the largest chapter of Minutemen” in California, a reference to the organization where private citizens had sought to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing into the U.S.

Donnelly, who has formed an exploratory committee for a possible candidacy for the governor’s race in 2014, urged the audience to oppose the efforts in Sacramento and Washington to limit gun ownership that he said is protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

“I would posit that what is truly at stake is the First Amendment” and the ability of Americans to resist improper “state power,” he said.

Gene Hoffman, a founder of the San Carlos-based Calguns Foundation, said the group is working in California and other states to allow citizens to legally carry weapons in public.

He noted that the most frequently purchased rifle in the U.S. is the semiautomatic AR-15, a weapon that some gun control advocates are trying to ban. If the Second Amendment doesn’t protect such a popular rifle, Hoffman said, “then it doesn’t protect much.”

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com.

21 Responses to “Sonoma County sheriff offers middle ground on guns”

  1. Fiscal Conservative says:

    I don’t NEED to read Mockingbirds comments and she does not NEED to write her

    The first Amendment addressed gathering, discussing and the printed page of paper, none
    of this interweb bluetooth military grade communication.

    I however have and will put my life in peril to protect her right. The one that disagrees I
    have similar rights.

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  2. Rick says:

    No, I have not wanted to shoot anyone in the last 30 years. I interrupted about a dozen crimes in that time and considered it, but certainly did not want to.
    The rules about drinking and carrying concealed are actually local rules by some chiefs and sheriffs, not state laws. No liability insurance is required. A CCW course is required by most sheriffs and chiefs, but they have the option to give a CCW to anyone they want, outright, no qualifications, training or record keeping, other than no ex-felons.
    I didn’t offer up the comment of the $100,000,000 as an excuse. That annual cost was a big part of the defeat, along with the loss of hundreds of millions in federal money for non-compliance. That was political/economics.
    I am not sure where the quote about violence comes in, from Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He made the statement after spending time in a communist Russian Gulag labor camp. I am sure he suffered and witnessed violence used to control.
    The new buzzwords “Gun violence” is an oxymoron when associated with concealed carry and the 2nd amendment. The criminals commit gun violence. Law abiding citizens use legal force or the threat of legal force to defend themselves and others. There is a huge difference.
    If life was close to fair, the same people who say, “Don’t blame all Muslims for the acts of a few crazy Muslims” would say the same for gun owners, “Don’t blame all gun owners for the acts of a few crazy gun owners”.

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  3. BigDogatPlay says:

    Dan Drummond wrote:

    “BD@P – Your logic about my logic is faulty. I said nothing of licensing your American right to freedom of speech, because your words don’t kill anyone. Neither did I say you couldn’t own a gun. And who knows what the Constitution would have said about automobiles had they existed in the 1700’s.”

    The direct extension of your logic in suggesting government licensure of an enumerated civil right is putting pre-requisities in front of other rights. While you don’t say it out loud, you are de facto approving of it. Can’t have it both ways after all.

    “I have two questions for you. You have a right not to answer them, but feel free to elaborate if you wish.
    1) How do you feel about background checks on all gun sales? I’m for them like most Americans.”

    You are aware, I suppose, that all lawful transfers of firearms in California, except those of antique rifles and shotguns, must be transacted through a licensed dealer with mandated background check? Including at gun shows It’s true, and they have been since the 1990′s. So what, exactly has that done to curb violent crime in California? The short answer is nothing.

    Criminals don’t obey the law, that’s why they are criminals. Universal background checks, which pre-suppose a universal registration system of guns and gun owners, would do nothing to deter criminal use of firearms and everything for the government to intrude even deeper into our private lives. The post Newtown publication by a Long Island newspaper of gun owners; New York requires a license to merely purchase a gun, was downright chilling. These are public records and that newspaper decided that their moral purpose was higher than the privacy of hundreds of people who had done no wrong. Remember also, if you will, that 99% + of privately owned firearms are never used in crime. Criminals get their guns… surprise, illegally. Of course even when prohibited persons do try to obtain a gun through lawful means there is less and less chance of government even bothering to do anything about it.


    “2) Do you want to be able to carry a gun with you wherever and whenever you want? I don’t think this is a good idea.”

    And you are entitled to your opinion on what is and is not a good idea. You can choose to live your life as you see fit. What you don’t get, as part of your opinion, is the right to dictate to others how they should live their lives.

    As an honorably retired law enforcement officer I CAN carry wherever and whenever I want, as if that really matters to the discussion. But the basic unfairness of being “one of God’s chosen few” as an old chief of my acquaintance used to describe those of us in the business, is striking and it is in great part why I am an outspoken advocate of equality and civil rights for all.

    As a retired officer, I am no better or worse a person than my law abiding neighbor. I am just another citizen who, by virtue of my employment, is deemed worthy to still be able to defend myself and my family in a public place. I am likely no better trained than my neighbor, even though I am an instructor. Many citizens seek out both basic and advanced training in order to be safe, responsible and ready should the worst suddenly be thrust upon them. That’s what it’s about, after all. It may never happen to any of us, but if it did (and I’ve seen it) it would be far better to be armed than not.

    So why then should that neighbor,should he make the conscious choice to want to be able to defend himself, and being willing to undertake the trouble and expense of training, background checking and licensure to carry concealed, be denied that right because a bureaucrat deems his “good cause” to be insufficient? That is the core of the problem here in California. There is no state standard and it is left to chiefs and sheriffs to approve or disapprove based on their sole judgement of the individual’s good cause statement. Often that approach has led to corruption or, in the case of Sonoma County, de facto prohibition for all but a select few.

    “P.S. You may feel safer in Alabama where you may soon be able to get a free lifetime permit to carry a pistol in your vehicle.”

    As noted above, I have a free, lifetime permit to carry anywhere in the United States. So what’s your point other than trying to throw a little ad hominem into the mix?

    Long story short, if you want to debate this issue you’d be better served by getting a few more facts aside from a push poll that found in one limited instance that a majority of Americans favor universal background checks, when more competent polling — and the ongoing market forces — say otherwise.

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  4. Follower says:

    As full implementation of Obamacare grows closer it becomes obvious that they either lied too us or just didn’t bother to read it before they passed it. Even Senate Finance Committee Chairman (D) Max Baucus called it’s implementation a “train wreck”.

    NOW I’m supposed to “trust” them when they assure me that I won’t end up on a Federal List in preparation for “phase 2″?
    Gun Confiscation.

    I’m no historian.
    I’m no mathematician.

    But I know history well enough to do the math on this one.

    The despicable spectacle of our President parading the families of New Town before Congress, using those poor people as props to pressure Congress to pass a bill that would have done NOTHING to save their children tells me everything I need to know about the TRUE agenda.

    Thank GOD for the “party of no”. …or what’s left of it.

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  5. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Here’s a link that says it all, thirty seconds that make the point:


    This is the weapon that our forefathers knew. And it appears that no one is reading the constitution. When will we be needing a militia when we have government armed forces? And don’t give me the crazy old song and dance about protecting us from our own government gone berserk. That’s tin foil hat territory.

    We need common sense gun laws. Military grade weapons are for the military not the common folk or hunters.

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  6. Dan Drummond, Sr.–”I said nothing of licensing your American right to freedom of speech, because your words don’t kill anyone.”

    This seems like a highly irresponsible view of the first amendment. The first amendment is single-handedly and assuredly the most dangerous of the amendments, because freedom of speech is what allows ideologues and politicians to stir a nation to war. Do you think the civil war would have occurred if the government had had the legal means to shut down the south simply for discussing the idea of separating?

    Ideas can stir a nation to kill; guns in the hands of the public can allow an individual to kill.

    What about the right to free speech that allows the KKK or Aryan Nation to rile themselves up for a lynching? That most certainly is a dangerous and negative manifestation of the first amendment, and yet it is–and should be–protected, because those are the same rights that allowed the civil rights movement.

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  7. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    Rick – I guess you passed the background check. Glad to know the government doesn’t let you carry your gun wherever you want. If you aren’t drinking can you take it a bar? Where else doesn’t the government let you bear arms? I don’t know the reason you need to carry a gun around with you, but there must be other places that aren’t appropriate, like maybe a church, the California State Capitol, or a 49er game. Maybe others of this forum could suggest places you should I not carry a gun.

    In your 30 years, did you ever need to shoot anyone around you, or want to?

    It would be interesting if the PD could do an article on concealed weapon carriers. They could tell us how that process works. Does the government take your picture? Do you have to pass a written and operational test? Do you have to be reevaluated and pay a fee to cover processing costs every year? Do you have to carry liability insurance to cover damages in case you shoot the wrong person or someone dies from a ricochet?

    P.S. $100 million to prevent a child from going through what those children went through is no excuse. The NRA spent $32 million just on politics in 2012.

    Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. ~ Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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  8. Rick says:

    I am curious about your questions to Big Dog. Since I have had a concealed carry permit for 30 years and have never gone off and shot everyone around me.
    Where is it that you think I should not be able to carry a gun?

    I know certain activities when you should not, like drinking alcohol in a bar, most states prohibit that already.

    Since criminal murderers have chosen every type of venue to strike, where should I not carry a gun?

    You may feel free to choose not to answer that question, of course.

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  9. Rick says:

    The defeat of the background check bill has much more to do with money than children or guns.

    The bill was going to cost $100,000,000 a year. Any state not providing the feds with the info they reqire, electronically, with in 3 years, would lose 3% of their fed money the first year, up to 5% in 2 years.

    Many states saw that as a HUGE loss of fed money if it passed and could not upgrade, costing millions more. Sometimes people will refuse to vote a bill that will extort money from them and costs millions to implement. Not all states are spenders like CA, wether they have it or not. Go figure.

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  10. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    BD@P – Your logic about my logic is faulty. I said nothing of licensing your American right to freedom of speech, because your words don’t kill anyone. Neither did I say you couldn’t own a gun. And who knows what the Constitution would have said about automobiles had they existed in the 1700’s.

    I have two questions for you. You have a right not to answer them, but feel free to elaborate if you wish.
    1) How do you feel about background checks on all gun sales? I’m for them like most Americans.
    2) Do you want to be able to carry a gun with you wherever and whenever you want? I don’t think this is a good idea.

    P.S. You may feel safer in Alabama where you may soon be able to get a free lifetime permit to carry a pistol in your vehicle.

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  11. BigDogatPlay says:

    @Dan Drummond…

    Driving a car on a public road is not an enumerated, constitutionally protected civil right. Owning a firearm is. Big difference.

    So, by your logic, access to this forum to exercise our civil right to free speech should be subject to licensure, photo ID and a written test. No thanks.

    Let’s look at it a different way. Have a read of this article. The US, with wide spread private ownership of firearms has less violent crime per capita than most of the nations of Western Europe… pretty much all of which have complete prohibition on the private ownership of arms. It’s far safer to live here than it is there, or so it would seem.

    And gun death figures are frequently salted by anti-gun advocates with suicides and justifiable killings made in lawful self defense. Back the latter two sub sets out of your data and get back to us.

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  12. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    Since many people die from automobiles and guns, I think both should require the same licensing procedure. If you want to use one, you must have your picture taken for a license, pass a written and operational test, pay a yearly registration fee, and if you sell your device you need to report who you sold it to in order to release your liability.

    In the 125 days since Newtown, 3,527 people have died in America from gunshots.
    You can read about each death by clicking on a body icon, then clicking on the source.

    I wish the Senate Republicans would stop dancing on those children’s graves!

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  13. Paul says:

    All this TALK from the sheriff about “middle ground” is just that; talk! I challenge the sheriff to reveal the list of people in this county who hold CCW permits. When you see this list, you will know that only the rich, powerful and influential hold these permits. No common folks need apply. Only those occupying very high ground in this county receive these permits. I could name a few names, but it’s quite simple; just go look at the list of the richest people in the county. They have them; fathers and sons, the whole lot. Do they truly need them any more than you or I? Of course not. But the sheriff gives them to them. Now, you, mister average citizen…you go try. Good luck.
    Simply pointing out the hypocrisy of all this TALK.

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  14. Jimbo96 says:

    California no longer has any “middle ground” left on this issue. All the laws on the books for over twenty years don’t appear to work, and CA has some of the most restrictive laws in the country. Criminals harm citizens, and all these proposals have only one result, making the citizen more unable to defend himself from the criminal. Middle ground would be more like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon, Idaho, or most of the other States that have lower crime statistics, you know middle ground is what the vast majority of the country experience, and believe me, CA middle ground disappeared back in the 70′s.

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  15. David Stubblebine says:

    Whether you favor gun control or oppose it, we should all insist that our representatives weigh this issue with facts & reason and not fears & hysteria.

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  16. Kathy Robler says:

    The rights grants to Americans with the Second Amendment are just as important as the rights we have under the First Amendment. We must protect our right to keep and bear arms as free citizens.

    Most people in this country own a gun for protection or sport. They do not go around killing the innocent. This happens most often these days in places like Chicago, Oakland, Detroit, New Orleans, and Los Angles. These are places where the existing gun laws need to be enforced before trying to take guns from law abiding citizens.

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  17. John Galt says:

    @Vinyl Rules Is your reading comprehension as poor as your comments would suggest, or are you deliberately twisting the article?

    The reporter decided to focus on the sheriff and his position, but this was not an attempt to evenly represent both sides of this issue. This was a forum for citizens to learn about legislation and enforcement issues in regards to firearms, and what further restrictions are being foisted upon law-abiding citizens.

    And your labeling and dismissiveness make your unintended point very clearly- that you don’t have any solid arguments to make, so you revert to calling others “hateful”.

    No, nothing more needs to be said. You successfully torpedoed your credibility in just a few short sentences.

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  18. Vinyl Rules says:

    If the “middle ground” is a panel that has Tim Donnelly as a panelist, then the NRA is a paragon of responsible civic engagement. This slavish devotion to false objectivity in American journalism is a sad, and one can only hope short-lived, pattern. The crowd “broke out in applause” at the mention of the Nativist hate-group The Minutemen. Does any more really need to be said about this so-called “middle ground”?

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  19. Citizen says:

    If you are willing to sacrifice freedom for the “feeling” of security, then your opinion means nothing to me.

    True American men and women know that responsibility–ESPECIALLY the responsibility for your and your family’s safety–lies with the individual.

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  20. James Bennett says:

    Assemblyman Tim Donnelly is a Patriot not a politician.
    He’s going to run for Govenor.
    If we had more officials like him in public office, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    Disarming the populace has NEVER gone well throughout history, never.
    In fact very bad things invariably follow.

    This directive is coming from the same place as all the oppressive crap manifesting itself.

    The UN.

    We need to disassociate from this globalist organization that IS NOT OUR GOVERNMENT.

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