When I covered Jim Butler Days in Tonopah a few months ago, I spotted Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly on the pro-Second Amendment float during the parade down Main Street.
I tried to catch up with her at the end of the parade. I eventually found the giant float — with no one on it anymore — parked in a lot, but I couldn’t find the sheriff, despite my walking up and down the street in search of her.
I was pretty disappointed. I had wanted to talk with her about guns and other issues in the national headlines involving law enforcement across the USA.
Then as the summer progressed, the news kept getting worse: 49 people gunned down at an Orlando nightclub, five police officers killed in Dallas, three officers fatally shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
So when I spotted Sheriff Sharon Wehrly at a recent Nye County Commission meeting in Tonopah, I made sure to speak with her about the seemingly unending violence around the country and how it was affecting our sheriff’s office.
“Obviously we’re taking a little more precautions, being a little bit more aware of what’s going on around us,” she said.
The next week and along those same lines, she told the Pahrump Valley Times that her office is looking to purchase about 70 body cameras for patrol officers across the county.
“I certainly hope I can expect something this year, nothing is in stone,” Wehrly said. “But that’s the direction that we are going.”
New stun guns also could be purchased.
In the interview with the Times-Bonanza, Wehrly said that her deputies also have been taking part in “refresher training.”
“Bringing your skills up, not only in defensive tactics, but also in officer awareness and officer safety,” Wehrly explained.
“We have these various shootings,” she said. “We realize it’s only a matter of time before it moves to the West Coast.”
The last Nye County deputy sheriff killed in the line of duty was in April 2010 when Ian Deutch was shot to death.
Nye: community policing
I asked Wehrly if she had been speaking with her colleagues around the country this summer for tips (advice that would be useful currently for Nye County deputies).
“Absolutely,” she said. “I just came back from the sheriffs’ and chiefs’ meeting in Ely. That was a topic of discussion, the various shooters and the changes and the trends of policing.”
“We’re trying to stay community police-based,” Wehrly said. “We don’t want to change that. We are community police. We live here. We work here. We are part of the community.”
The Nye County Sheriff’s Office currently features 98 sworn members, which includes detention and administrative staff.
In light of the recent mass shootings in the USA, I asked the sheriff about her thoughts on recent gun-control efforts before Congress.
“I think everybody should be able to carry a firearm if they so desire, and they’re legally capable of doing that, and they’re physically capable,” she said. “In other words, I believe in the Second Amendment.”
In a follow-up question, I asked Wehrly about whether people on the federal no-fly list should be allowed to have guns.
“That’s kind of depends upon what they’re on the no-fly list for,” she responded. “That’s really a hard question because it would be on a case-by-case basis. You’d have to take a look at each person and try to figure out just exactly why they put them on the no-fly list because I have no idea.”
As far as criminals with guns, “they didn’t get it from a gun store,” the sheriff was quick to say.
Then where do they get the guns?
“They get them from each other,” Wehrly said. “They either steal them out of people’s houses, or they have an underground network that brings guns from all over the country, stolen guns. They’ve moved them for years that way.”
“It has nothing to do with going in and applying for a firearm,” she added. “People who are felons can’t do that. They have their own sources.”
Nye County authorities are “absolutely” trying to break those up. “We have several gun cases going on now, stolen weapons,” Wehrly said.
Looking toward the Nov. 8 general election, Wehrly said she does not support the state Question 1 ballot measure and gave her reasoning.
“That’s talking about if I give you my firearm to go shoot (at a range), you have to have a background check first,” Wehrly said. “I don’t support you having a background check to shoot a gun for 15 minutes. That’s my gun that you’re going to give right back to me.”
If Question 1 is approved by Nevada voters, all gun buyers would be required to undergo a criminal background check, including private party sales.
As my interview with the sheriff neared an end, I remembered one other thing I almost forgot to ask: Her opinion on the Dallas police using a robot to kill the sniper there.
“I thought it was great,” Wehrly said. “They didn’t endanger any lives. That man was busy trying to take lives. To endanger more lives, even a K-9’s life, they didn’t do that.”
“They did the best thing that they could have done to solve the problem because he intended to kill people when they went in get him,” Wehrly continued. “That was his whole idea, what he had been doing all day.”
The Nye County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have a robot. Is that something our sheriff is looking into?
“Well, I’d love to,” Wehrly said. “But I’m afraid my budget wouldn’t handle that.”
Contact reporter David Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org