Whether they are police officers, sheriffs, highway patrol officers, or marshals, they are all members of law enforcement organized in a manner to best enforce the law by discovering, deterring, and apprehending persons who violate the laws governing society. It is not the responsibility of law enforcement to interpret or make the laws of the land, or to mete out punishment for law breakers; that responsibility lies with lawmakers and the courts. It is a sad fact of life, but there have always been renegade law enforcement officials who appoint themselves to interpret, adjudicate, and penalize those they regard as criminals and it contributes to many citizens’ low esteem for law enforcement.
Over the past few years, there has been a trend of law enforcement officials who fail to perform their jobs by openly refusing to enforce statutes they disagree with, and besides violating their public duty, they are breaking the law they swore to uphold. This type of law enforcement official is guilty of perverting justice, violating the public trust, and their corruption is tantamount to aiding and abetting criminal activities. They are also guilty of violating the law under the color of authority.
In Colorado over the weekend, Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said he refuses to enforce the state’s new gun laws banning the possession, sale, or transfer of large-capacity magazines. Some sheriffs, like Cooke, are refusing to enforce the laws they claim violate patriotic Americans’ Second Amendment rights. As an aside, Weld County is home to an officially-sanctioned secessionist movement to form a new state, North Colorado, where among other abominations, the county sheriff is the law of the land. Last May, all but seven of the 62 elected Colorado sheriffs signed on to a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Colorado’s new gun safety statutes requiring background checks for gun purchases and limiting magazines to 15 rounds. It was in Aurora Colorado that a gun-fanatic opened fire in a crowded theatre using a gun with a high-capacity magazine killing 12 innocent movie-goers and injuring 70 others. Every state in the Union needs stricter gun-control laws, but Colorado has been particularly devastated by gun violence; first in Columbine, then Aurora, and most recently last Friday when an 18-year-old shot and killed a classmate in school.
The trend of law enforcement officials refusing to enforce gun safety laws is not limited to Colorado and informs that they learned nothing from the massacre in Newtown, and that they are following a pattern set by Republicans in Congress. As Senator Pat Toomey said of his fellow Republicans leaning toward supporting background checks for gun purchases, “some on my side did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.”
That scenario played out in California last year shortly after the Newtown massacre when the county sheriff announced he would not enforce gun safety measures after President Obama addressed the nation and said “the nation must do more to prevent future tragedies, and to end them we must change.” The sheriff had just lost two deputies within a month of Newtown to a gun fanatic armed with an AR15 assault rifle and armor-piercing ammunition and it apparently had the same effect on him as the Newtown massacre. The sheriff railed against “this President for shredding the Constitution by confiscating American patriots’ guns” and supported a teabagger rally to show their resolve to “fight to preserve their god-given right to bear arms against Obama tyranny;” he is still the lead law enforcement officer in the county.
After New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed one of the toughest gun safety packages in the nation last January, two sheriffs announced publicly they refused to enforce the laws prompting Cuomo to say they were setting “a dangerous and frightening precedent.” Last October in Florida, a jury acquitted a sheriff who was charged with misconduct and suspended for releasing a man arrested by a deputy on charges of carrying a concealed firearm. Governor Rick Scott immediately reinstated the sheriff and said he was just protecting the man’s Second Amendment rights.
In urban areas, some police chiefs and state officials say that the laws are not only enforceable, but are already having a positive effect. Reasonable law enforcement officials noted that most gun stores stopped selling high-capacity magazines for personal use, although one sheriff acknowledged that some stores continued to sell them illegally, but that some private gun owners were seeking background checks when they sold or transferred ownership of their firearms.
According to one Colorado sheriff who did not sign on to the federal lawsuit challenging the Constitutionality of the state’s gun laws, “A lot of sheriffs are claiming the Constitution, saying that they’re not going to enforce this because they personally believe it violates the Second Amendment,” But that stance in and of itself violates the Constitution.” Still, that reasoned thinking is losing favor as evidenced by an increasing number of sheriffs refusing to enforce gun laws.
One such maniac is a former Arizona sheriff and author of “The County Sheriff: America’s Last Hope” who claims county sheriffs are “the ultimate arbiters of what is constitutional and what is not.” The dysfunctional constitutionalist, Richard Mack founded “The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association” and is gaining support among law enforcement officers who agree with his philosophy that “The Supreme Court does not run my office, just because they allow something doesn’t mean that a good constitutional sheriff is going to do it.” These public servants swear to uphold and defend the Constitution that gives the Supreme Court the final say in what is, and is not, the law of the land, and they represent as much of a threat to the nation as any religious fanatic, al Qaeda terrorist, or conservative disregarding the Constitution to advance their assault on democracy.
According to a Marquette University law professor, some states have laws allowing the governor to investigate public officials who engage in egregious misconduct, and said those laws might allow the removal of sheriffs who failed to enforce state statutes. The sheriff in Colorado disagrees and said it is his right to refuse to enforce any law he believed was wrong because his oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution “doesn’t say I have to uphold every law passed by the Legislature.” If that is the case, then every Colorado resident does not have to abide by laws passed by the legislature, and following that thinking to its logical conclusion means that society is doomed to fall into a state of anarchy, and eventually local dictatorships based on which sheriff has the largest arsenal.
America is a nation of laws, but if they are applied arbitrarily depending on regional law enforcement officials there is nothing to prevent this nation from becoming a tribal society like parts of Africa, or areas around Pakistan, where the local warlord is “the ultimate arbiter of what is Constitutional and what is not.” This trend of gun-crazed law enforcement officials claiming sole discretion to interpret, adjudicate, and enforce laws is part of a pattern reflecting the real problem in this country and it is not gun safety laws, 2nd Amendment rights, or even religious freedom; it is opposition to President Obama borne of racial animus.