CEDAR CITY — Iron County Sheriff Ken Carpenter addressed several topics related to gun rights and the U.S. Constitution on Wednesday night in Cedar City.
The sheriff’s speech attracted a large crowd gathered at the Staheli West warehouse on Airport Road. Although the event was privately organized and hosted, it was open to members of the general public.
Event organizer Dan McKittrick, who estimated that there were at least 500 people in the assembled crowd, said that those in attendance seemingly had many reasons in common for being there.
“I can’t believe how great it is to look at your faces, you know, and realize that we’ve got some of the same interests,” McKittrick said during his brief introductory remarks. “And everybody’s been sitting around wondering what we’re going to do. I know you’ve all had that same thought, ‘What can I do to change the trajectory of this great nation?’”
“I love America. And I hate the change that’s going on. And what we’re doing here is part of that, to bring about some change.”
As he began his remarks, Carpenter said he’d originally been invited to speak to a small group of 10-15 people, but when an online flyer about the event generated more than 6,000 hits in the first few hours, organizers quickly realized a larger venue would be needed.
“That sends a pretty clear message that the people of our county, the people of Southern Utah, the people of Utah, are very concerned about the things that are taking place,” Carpenter said.
He then started off his speech by noting that his sworn duty as sheriff is to support and defend the Constitution.
“When we take our oath, we don’t take our oath to a person; we take our oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, to support and defend the Constitution of the State of Utah, and to perform the duties of our office with fidelity.”
Carpenter said he has taken such an oath as both a member of the U.S. Marine Corps and as a law enforcement officer.
“The oath that I’ve taken five times is the same oath that every law enforcement and military member in the nation is taking,” he said.
Carpenter said issues related to the Constitution are of concern to federal law enforcement, as well, not just state and local officers.
Representatives from federal and state agencies also routinely attend monthly multi-county task force meetings, he noted.
“They’re there without fail,” he said. “And when we’re talking about things, they have the same concerns. They care about the same things. And one of those things is the Second Amendment.”
Utah is not alone in standing up for the right for citizens to bear arms, Carpenter said as he cited recent pieces of legislation passed in other states, including Montana and Iowa.
Carpenter then quoted a recent statement from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds that said, “We will never be able to outlaw or prevent every single bad actor from getting a gun. But what we can do is ensure law abiding citizens have full access to their constitutional rights while keeping Iowans safe.”
Regarding Utah’s newly passed HB 60, which eliminated the requirement for permits and safety training for concealed carry users, Carpenter noted that the new statute was supported by sheriffs and police chiefs on the state’s Law Enforcement Legislative Committee.
During the event’s follow-up Q&A session, Carpenter reminded those in attendance that concealed carry is a responsibility that is not to be taken lightly.
“With the new concealed carry statute, there’s just a couple things that concern me,” he said.
The first, he noted, is “if you’re going to carry concealed, are you prepared to take another human life? Because when you’re put in that situation, and you draw that pistol, and then you decide, ‘I can’t pull the trigger,’ it’s too late. Somebody else is going to take that pistol away from you and use it on you. So if you decide that you want to carry concealed, you better be prepared to take another human life.”
“The second part of it is, the same rules of force and deadly force that apply to me, as a police officer, apply to each one of you,” he added. “So how many of you understand the rules of deadly force and the rules of force in general? Because if you don’t understand that and you misuse that weapon, then you’re going to be held accountable.”
As was pointed out by Carpenter and other attendees later in the meeting, it is probably a good idea for concealed carry users to continue to renew their permits, due to the reciprocal agreements Utah has in place with other states.
During his speech, Carpenter also made reference to the newly passed Executive Order Review Process Amendments, designated HB 415 in the 2021 Utah Legislature and sponsored by Rep. Phil Lyman.
That measure, recently signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox, requires certain presidential executive orders or voted-upon laws by U.S. Congress to be reviewed by the Utah Attorney General.
“If those laws are deemed to be unconstitutional, then they will not be enforced in Utah,” Carpenter said. “Just because a president signs an executive order doesn’t make it constitutional.”
“Make no mistake, as the duly elected sheriffs of our respective counties, we will enforce the rights guaranteed to our citizens by the Constitution,” Carpenter later added. “No federal official will be permitted to descend upon our constituents and take from them what the Bill of Rights, in particular No. 2, has given them.”
He said defend those rights must be done peacefully, noting on the brilliance of the founding fathers and the implementation of checks and balances within the government.
“But ultimately, the power belongs to we the people. And through peaceful protest, we can express our freedom of speech. Through petition, we can require points of discussion to be put on the general ballot for a vote,” he said. “Ours is a peaceful society and it should remain so.”
During the hourlong Q&A session that followed his initial 20-minute remarks, Carpenter fielded questions on a variety of topics, including so-called “red flag” gun laws, regulation of illegal firearms, border control issues and mask mandates.
“I’ve been pretty clear on that in the past,” he said in response to a mask-related question. “I got beat up in the press pretty good about it here a few months ago. That’s okay. You know, to me, our health is a personal issue.”
“Whether we wear a mask or not is a personal choice,” Carpenter said as the audience broke out in applause (the vast majority of the crowd was not wearing any type of face coverings). “Whether we get the vaccination or not is a personal choice.”
Carpenter admonished those in the crowd to keep a copy of the U.S. Constitution handy and to familiarize themselves with it by reading and studying it regularly.
“A lot of times, I get people coming to me talking about the Constitution, and it’s very clear to me that they have no idea what’s really on it,” he said.
He also encouraged citizens to take the time to educate themselves on political issues.
“After you educate yourself, reach out to our elected officials. Let them know what your thoughts are on a particular issue,” he said.
Carpenter also suggested that the Iron County Commission join forces with like-minded county officials around the state regarding any proposed ordinances or proclamations in support of the Second Amendment.
Acting by itself, one county won’t have much impact in terms of publicity and press coverage, he said.
But if all or almost all of the state’s 29 counties “including our county, work together and become Second Amendment sanctuary counties together, what is the political statement?” he asked. “That’s extensive. United we stand.”
Carpenter also expressed his gratitude for the residents of Iron County.
“I have always maintained that we have the best citizens in the state. My deputies and I are truly blessed to serve you in this community.”
When officers and deputies throughout the county have been faced with critical incidents or tragic circumstances, you’ve given us your love and support. And when Black Lives Matter came to town to demonstrate, they did so peacefully, and our community was respectful to them. With COVID-19, regardless of view on mass mandates or other restrictions, you stood up for your views that have done so with kindness and respect to others. When many places across the nation were calling for defunding police, our sheriff’s office doors were ‘heart attacked’ (decorated with hearts) by children. Many people brought our deputies sandwiches and pizza.
In response to a related comment thanking the sheriff’s “department,” Carpenter politely thanked the audience member before pointing out, “We’re not a department. We’re an office, and I always make that point, because the sheriff’s office is the only elected position in law enforcement in the nation.”
“I don’t work for the governor. I don’t work for the county commission. I only work for all of you,” he added as the audience once again loudly applauded.
Carpenter concluded his prepared speech by emphasizing that his message was one of hope and faith.
“I firmly believe that the constitution was inspired and directed by God that the founders were guided every step of the way, from the Declaration of Independence, to the rising adoption of the Constitution,” he said.
“I believe it has been defended throughout the history of the United States, often at the peril of the lives of good and determined men and women,” he added. “Often it’s been preserved by what I believe to be miracles, because it was what God wants for us, so that we could be a blessing to the rest of the world. I believe that if we work diligently and pray together, the Lord will hear our prayers, and will continue to send miracles on our behalf. But we must do our part.”
Listed on the agenda for Monday’s upcoming Iron County Commission meeting is a proposed ordinance titled, “Establishing an Iron County Constitutional and Federalism Defense Council and a Constitutional Defense Plan.” The meeting is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on Monday at the commission chambers in Parowan.
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