Oregon sheriff wrote, ‘Gun control is NOT the answer,’ and residents agree

ROSEBURG, Ore. — Carolyn Kellim’s upper lip snarled to the left at the mention of gun control.

“I think that’s the worst thing in the world that can happen,” said Kellim, 86, who runs KC’s Exchange gun shop out of her home.

The words “2nd Amendment” are pasted in a decal onto her front door and there’s a Rifle Range Street nearby. In Roseburg, deer antlers line people’s driveways and locals hardly notice the pop-pop-pop of gunfire from nearby shooting ranges.

“This is hunting territory,” Kellim said, smiling proudly. Her views about guns — and who should be able to buy them — didn’t change, she said, when a gunman shot and killed nine people and wounded at least nine others at Umpqua Community College not far from her home.

The tone in Roseburg is different from most other communities.

An ex-girlfriend of a surviving victim scoffed at the idea of tightening gun laws, and Kendra Godon, an elementary education student who hid from the shooting in a nearby classroom, said she hoped her community’s tragedy wouldn’t get spun into the national debate about firearms.

John Hanlin, Douglas County’s sheriff and the public face of the community since the shooting, is also an outspoken critic of increasing gun control.

On his work biography, the broad-shouldered lawman who once attended Umpqua Community College lists three interests: fishing, riding his Harley and hunting.

When Vice President Joe Biden asked for stricter gun laws after the Newtown killings, Hanlin decided to speak up.

“Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings,” Hanlin wrote in a letter to Biden posted on the Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page.

Around the same time, Hanlin shared a conspiracy theory video about the Sandy Hook shooting on his Facebook page.

This spring, Hanlin testified before Oregon lawmakers about legislation requiring background checks for private gun sales. He argued that the measure — which has since become law — would keep guns from criminals about as much as laws keep methamphetamine out of the hands of drug addicts.

“What I fear most,” Hanlin said, his face red, “is that we’re going to create criminals … out of some of our most ordinary, normal, law-abiding citizens.”

Dennis Harper, 50, who works at an auto parts store near Umpqua Community College, said Hanlin’s views matched his own and those of most people in Douglas County.

“He’s trying to protect everybody’s Second Amendment rights,” Harper said. “We’re in Oregon; that’s what we do.”

When asked about his image as a Second Amendment advocate at a news conference Friday, Hanlin lowered his head.

His lips tightened and he said his mind was consumed with the investigation.

“Now is not an appropriate time to have those conversations,” he said.

As Hanlin walked away, someone shouted one last question: “Sheriff, why does this keep happening in America?”

Hanlin kept walking.