Two stories are rumbling across the InterTubes about the annual day the Oklahoma Legislature honors our state’s sheriffs. One story is that the sheriffs, this year only, were told “a” or senator(s) requested all weapons be turned over before entering the gallery. The sheriffs were allegedly called outside the chambers by the Sgt-At-Arms where the “Chief of Staff” ascertained the situation.” Wagner County Sheriff Bob Colbert said rather than leave their weapons behind, “we all packed up and left.” The second story comes direct from Senator Randy Bass’s (D-OK) office saying the sheriff’s were asked to step outside the chambers by the Sgt-at-Arms, to consult with a Chief of Staff “to ascertain” the situation, and then were allowed back inside, fully-armed, where they were “honored” by the Oklahoma Senate “with a standing ovation.” The name of the Senator(s) who made the request is apparently the closest-guarded secret in the state, or — as Matt, a media spokesman in the Office of the Senate Chief of Staff who reports to Communications Director Malia Bennett, told me this morning by telephone, (updating to clarify at 10:25 am 3/19/14 — when I asked if a Senator had requested that the Sheriffs leave) no one asked that the Sheriff’s leave the gallery. The Sgt-at-Arms “takes care of that.” So according to Matt, no Senator objected. I spoke with Roxanne in Senator Mike Mazzei’s office this morning. She emailed an audio clip (I can’t figure out how to embed it in this post), and there was some honoring going-on and ‘some’ Sheriffs apparently returned to the gallery with their service weapons. Some sheriffs being present was confirmed to me also by Matt in the Senate Chief-of-Staff’s office. No one I’ve talked to knows how many returned. While the audio you will read below shows Oklahoma State Senator Barrington honoring “Sheriffs” and the “Oklahoma’s Sheriff’s Association,” Oklahoma State Senator Randy Bass’s spokeswoman said via email, that others in law enforcement, outside the Sheriff’s Association were also honored. Matt confirmed that as well. See Sheriff Colbert’s interview below.
UPDATE 6:09 pm CDT: A reliable source in Oklahoma has assured me there is a different, clarifying story coming from Sheriff Colbert. I hope to have an update tonight. Stay tuned.
The audio clip:
Senator Barrington: Thank you Mr. President, Mr. Co-Leader. Members, if I may direct your attention to the gallery, we have some visitors who are County Sheriffs throughout our state and members of the Oklahoma’s Sheriff’s Association. Please give them a warm welcome to the Oklahoma State Senate [applause]. Courtesy of Oklahoma State Senator Mike Mazzei’s office
Listen to the common sense coming from Wagner County Sheriff Bob Colbert, whom I tried to reach by phone and had to leave a message:
COLBERT: Everybody in that building knew who we were. One of the Senators, who, they wouldn’t tell us, complained because we were armed in the building.
NARRATOR: They were then given a choice, disarm or there’s the door.
COLBERT: So we all packed up and left.
NARRATOR: Colbert doesn’t know who complained but he has his own complaints about the complainer.
COLBERT: We’re the people that protect these people.
NARRATOR: He says maybe if they were worried more about state business than law enforcement with guns, Oklahoma would be in better shape.
COLBERT: If the state troopers were satisfied that we’re okay to be in that building, I’m pretty sure that the legislators should have something else to be worried about, such as the economy, or something.
NARRATOR: He says some lawmakers have called to apologize but the sting of getting the boot from the Capitol is going to hurt for awhile.
COLBERT: Pretty sad day for me in my career in law eforcement.
An Oklahoma resident emailed “every Senator” requesting the name of the Senator(s) objecting to armed Sheriffs in Capitol Hill chambers. He received at least one reply, but no answer:
I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHICH SENATOR DEMANDED THE DISARMING OF THIS SHERIFFS IN OK. IF YOU BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU DEMANDED THEN YOU SHOULD NOT MIND ADMITTING TO IT. ~ Signed Gene Bell
The following is the reply from Senator Randy Bass’s office to the above question from Gene Bell:
Executive Assistant to
Senator Randy Bass
Senate rule regarding weapons in the gallery and chamber
Throughout the session, it is the Senate’s privilege to welcome and honor representatives of local police departments, sheriff’s departments, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and state law enforcement agencies to acknowledge the work they do and thank them for their service. This is a long-standing tradition.
Likewise, going back all the way to statehood, Senate rules have long-stated that firearms and weapons are not allowed on the Senate floor or gallery. This can be waived with prior permission of the Chief of Staff.
(Senate Rule 10-2).
The sheriffs visiting the Capitol this past Wednesday evidentially were not aware of this public safety restriction, and a Senate Sgt. of Arms asked them to step outside of the gallery, where subsequently, the Chief of Staff was able to ascertain the situation, and the sheriffs were invited to return to the visitors’ gallery with their service weapons and were honored
by the full Senate with a standing ovation.
It is misleading, in my opinion, to say the sheriffs “were not aware of this public safety restriction….” This is an annual event and I believe I am correct in saying they have not been disarmed in past years.
The audio printed above mentions only “county sheriffs” and the “County Sheriff’s Association,” not “local police departments,” “the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and state law enforcement agencies.” To repeat, according to Oklahoma Senate Chief of Staff media spokesman, Matt, police and other law enforcement were included, perhaps in a separate audio clip. Checking information on members of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Association, active membership does not include Police, Highway Patrol or other law enforcement agencies: (the additional law enforcement agencies mentioned above were not represented on Wednesday March 12, 2014 but will likely have their own ‘Day’ during this session)
Active members are comprised of Sheriffs and staff throughout the state. As voting members our active membership helps direct the activities and efforts of the OSA by electing its governing body and voting on important issues at the Annual Conference. Source: OSA
Sheriff Colbert is one of many county sheriff’s and other law enforcement officials who have made it perfectly clear to President Obama that his gun control efforts will not be enforced in their jurisdictions. In other words, these honorable men understand the significance of their oath of office. They understand the constitution and the power it gives the people, not the government. They understand that good people exercising the right to keep and bear arms are nothing but an asset to their efforts in fighting crime, and they understand a disarmed populace is a helpless populace. This is why Sheriff Colbert and Oklahoma’s other elected sheriffs, when faced with the prospect of either disarming or leaving the capital, chose to leave fully armed with their honor intact. Good for them.
Let me say this loud and clear. Sheriffs of Oklahoma, patriotic Oklahoman’s have got your back.
This isn’t the first time state governments have turned on their county sheriff’s. In fact it is happening with frightening regularity since they have taken a stand and drawn a red line concerning Constitutional rights. (read more here.)
I have attempted to reach the office of Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz for comment but had to leave a message. (UPDATE 4:30 pm CDT 3/19/14 – Carrie from Sheriff Glanz’s office called, said he was out of the office but she confirmed that he did not attend the Oklahoma City State Capital meeting with the Sheriff’s Association.) I also tried to reach Senator Brian Bingman, President Pro Tem of the Oklahoma State Senate and had to leave a message. Ironically, the entire oksenate.gov site has been down this morning. If I hear back from Glanz, Bingman or Sheriff Colbert’s office, I will update here. (UPDATE 4:27 pm – I received a call back from ‘Cathy’ in Sheriff Colbert’s office. He is out of the office today and will return my call when he returns). Please see the update after my conversation with the Communications Director of the Oklahoma Senate here.
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