AP reports via the Durango Herald:
Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith backed off his hard-line stance against gun-law enforcement Thursday after he said he would refuse to enforce unconstitutional laws, including gun laws. He warned universal gun registration would lead the government to “target and prosecute law-abiding Americans who are simply exercising their constitutionally recognized right to keep and bear arms.”
According to the Loveland Reporter-Herald, Smith said later his comments were misunderstood and that he was not trying to determine which new gun laws might be unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, Sheriff John Cooke in neighboring Weld County voiced vehement opposition to President Barack Obama’s sweeping plan to address gun laws. Cooke said he would refuse to enforce any part of it. [Pols emphasis]
“I’m not going to help him in any way. I’m not going to enforce it because it’s unenforceable, and because I don’t have the resources. The federal government doesn’t have the resources,” Cooke told the Greeley Tribune.
On the one hand, what we have here is pretty simple: a relatively few staunchly partisan Republican low-level officeholders who have found a national political debate they can glom on to in their official capacity. There’s little doubt that these public statements from a few county sheriffs are being coordinated by the very well-funded and organized ideological opponents of gun control, every bit as certainly as mayors around the country are organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. This in itself is not unusual.
But when you get past that, and realize that these are law enforcement officers in their official capacity arbitrarily declaring what laws they will enforce, you realize that it is actually kind of a problem.
As the AP report continues, Weld County Sheriff John Cooke has settled on his very own highly laissez-faire interpretation of the Second Amendment, whereby everything, blanket statement, President Barack Obama proposed this week to reduce gun violence is unconstitutional. Especially, says Cooke, Obama’s proposal for universal background checks, which would be “a step” toward possibleВ ”mandatory gun registration.”
Notwithstanding the fact that universal background checks are not tantamount to universal registration, and even though nobody’s proposing such a law in Colorado, gun registration laws were considered constitutional in the recent Supreme Court of D.C. vs. Heller that outlawed outright bans on guns–and federal courts since Heller have upheld the constitutionality of gun registration laws. In short, registration is not confiscation, and this is doubly silly because no one is even proposing registration. It is an incorrect interpretation of the law, that requires a descent into “slippery slope” irrationality to even get off the ground. To characterize this as irresponsible behavior for any public official can fairly be called an understatement.
And what will Sheriff Cooke do if the state of Colorado, not the evil Obama administration, is the first entity that enacts universal background checks–as seems increasingly likely?
On a more fundamental level, what are we to say about law enforcement officers who arbitrarily declare, based on lowbrow and faulty interpretations of the law, that they won’t enforce the law? What are we to say about law enforcement officers who decide a law is “unenforceable,” based on the stunning insight that people can still break it? As if that wasn’t true of basically every law?
It seems to us these gentlemen might be better suited to a job that does not involve enforcing the law at all.