ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) — This small town in southern Oregon's timber country strongly supports gun rights, and that hasn't changed for the county's top law enforcement officer since a gunman killed nine people at a local community college.
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin told CNN on Friday that his position on gun control had not shifted following Thursday's shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, which is in a politically conservative region west of the Cascade Range.
He spoke out against state and federal gun control legislation last year, telling a legislative committee that mandating background checks for private, person-to-person gun sales would not prevent criminals from getting firearms.
Hanlin also sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden in 2013, after a shooter killed 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school. Hanlin said he and his deputies would refuse to enforce new gun-control restrictions "offending the constitutional rights of my citizens."
The community, where people like to hunt deer, elk and bear, echoes his push to protect gun rights.
"I carry to protect myself — the exact same reason this happened," said Casey Runyan, referring to the Thursday's shooting. Runyan carries a Glock 29 pistol everywhere he goes.
"All my friends agree with me. That's the only kind of friends I have," said Runyan, a disabled Marine Corps veteran.
Retired U.S. Army nurse Donice "Maggie Rose" Smith, who also hosts a talk show on Internet radio, said she and her husband, a retired Army captain, chose Douglas County for their retirement because of a low crime rate and strong local support for First and Second Amendment rights.
J.C. Smith said barring people from carrying guns on campus made it particularly vulnerable to a "lone wolf" attack.
"With current world events, (armed people) would keep the ground safer," he said.
The school has a policy of no guns on campus and did not feel the need for an armed security presence, Umpqua Community College interim President Rita Cavin said.
"This is an anomaly and a tragedy," she said of the shooting.
At a candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting, former student Sam Sherman said Roseburg was a "poor town, a mill town." Oregon's timber industry went into a tailspin 25 years ago as protection for the northern spotted owl reduced national forest logging and automation took over jobs.
"People don't generally aspire to greater things here," she said. "So having a place you can go to do that is a big deal. For something that terrible to happen at such a small school is frustrating."
Associated Press videographer Manuel Valdes contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that Sam Sherman is a female.