Letter to the editor — January 13, 2011

Dear Emerson:
In response to your editorial “Arizona Sheriff Nailed the Cause.”
You and the sheriff of Pima County, Ariz., could not be more wrong unless you said the sun was going to rise in the west tomorrow. You suggest that when the sheriff stated “the anger, the hatred and the bigotry that goes on in this country” was the cause of the deaths and injuries that resulted, you and the sheriff are not only wrong you are attempting to use a horrible tragedy for a political purpose. The sheriff, whose responsibility it is to deal in facts, gave an opinion based on no facts. He has admitted that.
When you and the sheriff single out one side of the debate as the cause of these actions, you are certainly dealing in politics — and that is reprehensible, given the horrible events.
I might not be upset if you had cited instances on either side of the extreme rhetoric, but you didn’t. If you don’t have any, I can supply you with a very long list from the president on down.
You are an editor and you have the right to an opinion and to express it. The sheriff, on the other hand, had no business in giving his opinion on a criminal case he is charged with investigating. If he wants to give us his opinion on political speech or who is going to be in the next Super Bowl, that is great. He just should not sneak in opinions based on his imaginings in connection with a criminal case. In fact, he is charged with just the opposite.
His role should be one of fact finder, to be a seeker of the truth, of quieting public outcries — not in feeding them. He is instead giving out false information that might make the job of prosecution more difficult. Not many actions on his part could be worse. I don’t know if it is the same in Arizona, but sheriffs in Kansas have to be concerned with the rules of conduct that the court imposes through the prosecutors.
We may find out later, after what I would term an actual investigation, that the young man did do it because he was listening to Rush on the radio or reading your editorials. The problem will be that evidence in that regards will be tainted by a sense that the investigation had been directed to that point by an over-political and news-happy sheriff.
Did you make the same connection during the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan? Did you decry the hateful speech of the left that obviously based on your’s and the sheriff’s theories resulted in a deranged citizen attempting to kill the president? The political speech of today is bad, but perhaps one can take heart in the fact that it is not nearly as over the top as our history reflects. Lincoln was called an ape. FDR was called the devil by a minister whose radio show reached millions. One senator almost clubbed to death another with his cane. (By the way he broke his cane during the assault and was sent dozens of canes by southern supporters.) Jefferson called John Adams not only a hermaphroditical character but a hideous one to boot. Democrats said Ronald Reagan would lead us to all being Nazis.
When you talk about guns we can have that conversation. Not many can say they believe in the 2nd Amendment as I do. I believe it is one of our more important rights, however I believe it comes with even greater responsibility and with responsibility should come harsh penalties when we don’t live up to those responsibilities. To that end former Sen. Derek Schmidt, now attorney general for Kansas, and I proposed a law that would give very harsh sentences to those that used a firearm in connection with a crime. We were to some degree successful although the law was watered down in Topeka because of issues that DOC had with the possible bed space problem it might generate. Take a bit for that to sink in, the DOC was worried that we might be putting too many of the right people in prison.
When you talk about the mental health system and law enforcement failing to identify this person and take action, you are on solid ground and we can have that conversation. There are serious questions and ones that should be explored and answered with facts, truths and certainties. There is a hole in our system of firearms purchases in relation to people buying weapons that should not be at that point in time. I agree with you on that. Let us talk about that as a society and as a community. Something actually positive and helpful might come of it. We don’t need to spend time on silly ramblings made up of whole cloth.


Thomas R. Williams
Sheriff, Allen County, Kansas

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