Sunday, October 2, 2011

Jones County Sheriff's Election and the Second Amendment

Here in Jones County Iowa we will be having a special election to choose our sheriff this Tuesday.  Our long-time and well liked sheriff Mark Denniston retired this summer.  Besides being a good all-around law enforcement officer and administrator, county gun owners liked Denniston because of his friendly stance on Second Amendment issues.

Sheriff Denniston maintained a "shall-issue" policy on weapons permits back when the state left issuance solely to each sheriff's discretion.  After the statewide shall-issue law (which Denniston championed) passed, Jones County supervisors considered passing a carry ban in the county courthouse.  Sheriff Denniston threw cold water on their idea (in the form of common sense), pointing out that signs with a line through a picture of a gun don't stop deranged shooters and that a true "gun-free zone" would require additional personnel and screening stations at each entrance, costing scads of money that the county didn't have.

When he decided to retire, Denniston initially asked his Chief Deputy Greg Graver if he'd be interested in finishing the balance of his term.  Graver discovered that if a special election was called during that time, and if he lost, the appointed sheriff would lose his employment with the county.  With a wife and three kids at home, Graver passed but expressed interest in running in the next election (which he assumed would be in 2012).  Denniston then turned to long-time deputy and jailer Harvey DeSotel, who accepted.

The Jones County Supervisors approved DeSotel as the new sheriff and he has served in that office since June.  The transition from Denniston to DeSotel was pretty seamless and smooth.  Indeed, most Jones County residents probably never noticed.  However, supporters of the other candidate that the Supervisors considered for the job, Rick LaMere, successfully circulated a petition calling for a special election to fill the spot.

That election will be this Tuesday, October 4th.  On the ballot are Rick LaMere (Republican), Harvey L. DeSotel (Democrat), Greg A. Graver (Nominated by Petition) and Scotty Shover (Nominated by Petition).  I wanted to ask the candidates their positions on some Second Amendment issues.  I was only able to dig up email addresses for Sheriff DeSotel and Chief Deputy Graver.  Thankfully, they're the only two I was considering voting for anyway.

LaMere is a retired DEA agent.  The pragmatist in me says that the experience of being a federal agent doesn't directly translate into being a good local law enforcement officer.  The libertarian in me says that the federal war on drugs has been one of this country's biggest, most expensive, unconstitutional failures leading to increased crime, corruption, and violence and decreased civil liberties, especially Fourth Amendment protections.  If that's where this guy cut his teeth, no thanks.  The other guy, Scotty Shover, has no law enforcement experience whatsoever and his main qualification seems to be that he collected the requisite number of signatures to appear on the ballot.

I asked DeSotel and Graver the following three questions via email:

1. Do you support Iowa's current "shall issue" weapons permit law as written?

2. Will you push for any additional carry restrictions in the county, such as on county property?

3. Would you support a permitless carry system ("Constitutional Carry"), such as been adopted in Vermont, Alaska and a few other states?

Here are Sheriff DeSotel's responses:

Question 1. Just as the former Sheriff, Mark Denniston, I fully support the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. Mark would not have supported me without sharing the feelings.

Question 2. No I will not push for additional carry restrictions in the county. I believe there are too many restrictions as it stands.

Question 3. Should a state “Constitutional Carry” laws be brought up for adoption I am not certain. I still think there needs to be some sort of accountability. I’m not saying a big brother or myself needs to know, but any way we can keep the guns out of the bad guys hands is better than the other. I feel that every law abiding citizen that can show that they know how to handle a weapon safely should be given the right guaranteed to them by the constitution to carry that weapon as a matter of personal defense. I feel that the more that the public and the criminals know that the citizens of Jones County are carrying weapons for personal defense, I think that the amount of personal impact crime will stay down to where it is now. Jones County has long been known as a heavily carrying county, and the criminals know this too.

Here are Chief Deputy Graver's responses:

Question 1. I do support the "shall issue" law, but I would like to see a few minor changes. For example. If a retired vet brings in a DD214, he is issued a permit. Even if he has not been in the military since 1948. Yet a active war vet back from his 3rd tour of duty in Iraq, needs to show small arms quals. To me, although I support our vets, the 1st vet may not have held a firearm for 60 years and yet the law makes more of an issue for our active vets. It offends me, can't believe how they must feel!

Question 2. I spent 8 years of my career working mostly felony crimes. I know the criminals I sought out had access to firearms, no matter what the law said. Unless the county is willing to man 1 entrance with a metal detector and make it a safe zone, not going to happen. A sign on the door restricting firearms is not going to affect those looking for criminal activity. Those who are carrying lawfully should be permitted to carry on county property. Shootings at a court house have happened in the past and I would hope someone I issued a permit to, could intervene and stop the threat if I can't!

Question 3. I do not know enough about that to make an opinion. Since other states have gone to this, I would like to know from their experience, does the good outway (sic) the bad and how. I could base my opinion on their experience and this would give me great insight to make an informed decision.

In my humble opinion, Graver or DeSotel both are fine for sheriff.  They both have plenty of experience in local law enforcement and neither appear anti-Second Amendment.  Since I can't vote for them both, I'll be marking my ballot for Greg Graver.   I believe Graver's wide-ranging experience (from patrol officer, to EMT, to supervisor, to criminal investigator) edges out DeSotel's.  But if DeSotel wins, I'll sleep just fine at night too.


  1. Mark is a great guy. Someone is going to have a pair of good sized shoes to fill.

  2. Scotty Shover was actually a Police Officer for the Anamosa Police Department many many years ago.

  3. The best choice is, Greg Graver. He's young, experienced & as a current Deputy has to keep up with the newest laws. DeSotels age is against him, Shover was an APD 20+ years ago. He was...'heavy handed'

  4. Scotty Shover SR was a police officer in Anamosa many years ago. His son, Scotty Shover JR, is the candidate running for sheriff. This blogger is correct in saying he has no law enforcement experience.

  5. Indeed, Robert.

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

  6. The election is now over and Greg Graver (who was forced to run as a independent) won by a very large margin. over 3400 votes to his nearest competitor (LaMere) 711 votes. The people of Jones county recognize honesty and hard work. Finally an election outcome that shows the citizens are listening and not voteing on a candidate strickly because they are from one party or another.

  7. Thanks for the update, Clif. I was meaning to write something up about that. You're right, it was refreshing that someone was supported based on their resume, not whether he had a R or a D behind his name.


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