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I owe you an apology

rainey BARRETT


No question. I owe everyone who regularly follows these wandering thoughts an apology. And I offer such. Now. I apologize. I screwed up.
One of my frequent rants has been how I seriously believe far too many Americans go to the polls with little knowledge of the issues – of how government operates – of worthiness (or lack thereof) of candidates. Now, after a lifetime of media and civic participation, I’ve stumbled. Badly.

I’m a law and order kind of guy. Proud to say I’ve had some excellent experiences with outstanding people in law enforcement for decades with a number of friends in the business whom I deeply respect and admire. In our last local unopposed election for sheriff, I listened to the incumbent and cast what I thought was a knowledgeable vote. But it wasn’t. I didn’t know the real candidate and I didn’t know what he intended to do. Or not do. He didn’t come clean. I didn’t do my homework.

With a four-year renewal of his contract in hand, our local fella announced he’s not going to enforce all the laws. Oh, some he agrees with and you can expect he’ll do his duty on those. But there are others he won’t touch. A few days back, he even fired off a letter to Vice President Biden telling him the same thing. He went on quite a bit about what he’d decided was “constitutional” and what wasn’t. And he said he wouldn’t enforce laws he said were “unconstitutional.” No, Sir. If some gun laws come his way, he’s gonna pick and choose. He’ll decide what’s legitimate – “constitutional” he said – and act only on the ones he agrees with. Forget the others.

A week or two passed after his heated missive to Washington and I thought he might feel better now that he got it off his chest – that he’d simmer down and do his duty after all. But, no! Not our sheriff! He subsequently told the crew at our little almost-daily, almost-newspaper the other day he still meant it. No backing down there.

What’s really got his knickers knotted is if he’s told to “disarm” our county citizenry. If the feds tell him that. Of if the feds try to do that, he would “not tolerate” them doing so in his jurisdiction. To allow it, he said, “would mean violating (my) constitutional oath.” The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t tell him that. He decided on his own. Sorta from the hip.

Now, I’ve read the vice president’s recommendations. All of ‘em. Pretty reasonable stuff. I can’t find that part about “disarming” citizens – who would recommend it – under what conditions – who would authorize it -who would carry it out. Or that anyone would even think about it. The only voices I’ve heard even coming close to such conspiratorial crap have been on Faux “news” and we all know how they’re crazy as hell. Maybe that’s where our local sheriff got it. He might be a “Faux guy.”

He carefully pointed out “more than 4,000 people in Douglas County are “concealed carry” gun owners,” making it “one of the safest parts of the country.” Well, maybe. But figure 4,000 citizens in a county population of about 110,000 is less than four-percent. They’d all have to do a lot of shootin’ and killin’ to make it “one of the safest parts of the country.”
Suppose 40% or so in our county owned guns and were inclined to use them on other people. I doubt they would – but suppose. That means about 60% are unarmed with no intention of shooting anyone. So, in both cases, he’s concerned about a minority rather than the majority. Interesting that it was the majority of us who put him in his job – not the minority. And it was the protection of ALL of us he swore would be his job.

None of this “I’ll decide what to enforce and what to ignore” was part of his campaign for office. No, he presented a very positive law and order image. Not one word of choosiness about constitutional issues. Or his unique “knowledge” to decide what is and what isn’t.

Another sheriff – two counties over from us – looked at that same list Biden’s committee presented and said he found nothing wrong – nothing “unconstitutional.” “Nothing new – nothing that’s not already happening,” said Sheriff Bishop. Of the nearly three-dozen sheriff’s in Oregon, only about half-a-dozen have set themselves up as “constitutional deciders.” The other 25 or so looked at the list and went on with their duties. Same thing happened across the country. Sheriffs by the thousands took a look at the proposals and went back to work. No thousands of angry letters. No huge outpouring of declarations of what was – and was not – “constitutional.” In their unscholarly opinions.

Elected officials – yes, sheriffs, too – often have to find a dictionary to look up the word “malfeasance” during their careers. It gets used a lot when people in elected office become contrary or decide which of their duties they’ll carry out. There’s a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo when defining “malfeasance,” but it’s really just “improper professional conduct.”

Our reluctant sheriff is playing to the paranoid fears of a goofy minority of a minority while telling the majority of gun and non-gun owners – under his lawful protection – he won’t uphold laws he “thinks” are wrong. He’ll gamble with their safety – their lives. Is that proper professional conduct?

Law enforcement – like the military – is not a career in which each individual can decide which orders he’ll obey and which he’ll ignore. There are courts for that. There are other people hired to decide what is – and what is not – lawful. That’s their job. With proper procedures to involve them if necessary.

Peace officers – like the military – are given an order and expected to say “Yes, Sir” and get it done. The lives of each person in the military – and law enforcement – depend on the absolute willingness of all others given similar orders to carry them out. The successful can do that and do it well. Others chose a new career.

So, I apologize for not doing the same electoral due diligence I’ve long castigated others for ignoring. I let a candidate for office have my vote before I found out how unwilling he was to do his job. All of his job.

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