FRANKFORT — An Eastern Kentucky sheriff said Saturday that he will not enforce any new gun control laws that he considers unconstitutional.
Asked whether such a stance makes him more a judge than a law-enforcement official, Jackson County Sheriff Denny Peyman said he has "a team of attorneys to step up with me if necessary to be sure the Second Amendment is upheld."
"I consider this a moral obligation," he said.
Peyman, who has been sheriff of Jackson County for two years and is a member of the National Rifle Association, is garnering national attention and support from gun rights advocates for saying Saturday, "My office will not comply with any federal actions which violate the United States Constitution or the Kentucky Constitution which I swore to uphold."
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The controversial issue of gun control has intensified across the nation since last month's massacre in Newtown, Conn., in which 27 people were killed. Twenty of them were elementary school children.
A federal task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden at President Barack Obama's request to look for ways to curb gun violence is to issue recommendations by Tuesday.
Sheriff Peyman, 59, held a news conference Saturday afternoon at a restaurant in McKee to talk about his position on gun control. He said in a phone interview that it attracted more than 100 people.
Peyman, an Idaho native who came to Kentucky 15 years ago to work with high-risk children, said he is concerned that new gun control laws could lead to bans and even the confiscation of guns.
"American citizens already have given up too much power over guns," he said.
Peyman said citizens in his county need guns for defense.
"I'm for people defending themselves," he said. "There are some places in this county that takes me 45 minutes to get to. If they have a gun, they could do a better job of defending themselves than waiting for me."
Peyman acknowledged that the Kentucky State Police also patrols Jackson County, "but it often takes them a long time, too, to get to places here."
Asked what he thinks about doing away with AK-47s, Peyman said, "If they pull them off the market, what will they pull off next?"
Jerry Wagner, executive director of the Kentucky Sheriff's Association, said Saturday the group has "not taken any position of any kind on gun control."
He added: "We are a constitutional office and will uphold the Constitution."
Peyman dismissed problems he has with Jackson County Judge-Executive William O. Smith and the Jackson County Fiscal Court.
They say Peyman's office owes the fiscal court more than $278,000 in payroll assistance from when he took office in January 2011. Peyman says there is no problem, but the court has called for an investigation and has set up a county police department. Peyman said he now has no deputies.