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Sheriff, it’s the law

rainey BARRETT


We’re experiencing an outbreak of ignorance by some elected officials coast-to-coast since this week’s debut of President Obama’s attempt to rein in mass murder and stop some of the killings on our streets and in our institutions. Sadly, some of these voices are in our own neighborhoods.

Here, in our little burg-in-the-woods, our fine sheriff has added his voice to others in similar offices across the country, threatening to ignore federal laws and court decisions. He and the others have so notified Vice President Biden – in writing – of their intent. If the subject of responsible gun ownership were not so important, some of those letters would be Exhibit “A” in a court test of competency in how our government works. They would not look good.

The form of these misbegotten writings is so similar it’s not hard to imagine their source is a national organization. American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)? NRA? Council of State Governments?

I’ve read several. Here’s the common theme: that the Vice President “NOT tamper with or attempt to amend the 2nd Amendment (to the Constitution)… any actions against, or in disregard for our U.S. Constitution and 2nd Amendment rights by the current administration would be irresponsible and an indisputable insult to the American people…we must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws.”

Then there is the direct threat from our sheriff, though it is essentially the same in all these ranting epistles. “…federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the President offending the Constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Douglas County. I will refuse to participate in, nor tolerate enforcement actions against citizens that are deemed unconstitutional.”

There’s so much wrong with these legally-illiterate threats it’s hard to know where to start. But, for our purposes, let’s go to Article XV of the Oregon Constitution: “Any person elected or appointed to any office under this Constitution, shall, before entering on the duties thereof, take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution of the United States and of this State.”

Seems pretty clear. If it’s in the federal or state constitutions – or in law – you enforce it. I read nothing about a sheriff “interpreting” – nothing about “agreeing” – nothing about “ignoring” – no option to “refuse to participate” – and no authority granted to interfere with “federal officers” in the performance of their federal duties. Can’t find any of that.

All these angry epistles I’ve read contain the same tone – the same arrogance – the same refusal to uphold the oaths the signatories took upon their entry into service. They all ignore the fact that the U.S. Constitution is not amended or altered by presidents or even Congress. It’s only done by a vote of two-thirds of the states. They all talk of “NOT violating” the constitutional oaths they took, then threaten – in writing – to do just that. They all promise to interfere with “federal officers” trying to enforce “unconstitutional regulations or orders.” They all promise sedition.

Now, if the FBI, the BATF, or the Secret Service show up at our courthouse, I’d hate to think our sheriff – or any other elected official – would not recognize the legitimacy of their orders. Because such refusal IS sedition. And that could put a sheriff on the other side of the bars in his own jail.

None of these letters – none – seem to recognize the constitutional authority – the constitutional responsibility – the reason for the very existence of the U.S. Supreme Court. I doubt much of what the President has proposed will make it into federal law. But, if somehow it does, and if the U.S. Supreme Court says “That’s the way it is,” to all the sheriffs out there – “That’s the way it is!”

I suspect some of these badge carriers are playing to their local political base. Our Republican guy doesn’t have to. In our county, you could slap an “R” on a Rottweiler and elect it to something.

Our nation is rife with voices of elected officials at all levels threatening to go their own ways – attempting to erode one of the most basic tenets of our national existence: the rule of law. When a local sheriff tells the federal government he’ll pick and chose which laws he’ll enforce and which he’ll ignore – when a sheriff tells a higher level of government he will deliberately interfere with others carrying out their lawful duties – that sheriff is in direct violation of his oath of office. And the trust of the citizens who put the badge on his chest.

That is malfeasance defined. It’s sedition defined. It’s cause for removal from office. And it’s the law!

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