The progressive side of the American political debate has declared itself and its policies immune to federal, state, and sometimes even local laws. It does this in small ways as well as large ones. This ranges from violent suppression of the Freedom of Speech rights of conservative students and pundits on college campuses to the creation of sanctuary cities and states. This sanctuary involves several things, but it mostly revolves around illegal immigrants and federal laws regarding them.
From a federal perspective, it is illegal to enter the country without an appropriate visa or a prearranged political exemption. California completely invalidates this with a welcome-arms approach, and then actively works to thwart federal officials from enforcing those laws. There are even state laws barring local and state law enforcement officials from cooperating with federal authorities with regard to illegal aliens.
In a great “turnabout is fair play” decision, many blue states have county sheriffs declaring their counties sanctuaries on all things regarding state gun control laws. These sheriffs have publicly stated that many laws enacted or currently up for vote will be deemed invalid in their counties. Some have specifically stated that any officer or deputy working with the state officials will be fired. Others have been more direct in their statements on the subject.
The vast majority of these sheriffs are elected officials who run the law enforcement in red counties of blue states. The divide is between the big-city Democrats and the rural conservatives. The sheriffs see their duty as protecting and serving the citizens of their county and enforcing the standards of the local conservative voters against the dictates of the big city Democratic machine. Most also reference the Second Amendment as their reason for refusing to enforce what they view as “unconstitutional” laws.
There are several types of laws that are being challenged in this way. One set is age limits on purchases of long guns by those under the age of 21. Another is the crop of “Red Flag” laws that have zero due-process provisions. The last large area of these nullified laws regard enhanced background checks or largely expanded requirements for using background checks for the transfer in possession (not ownership) of a gun.
In Oregon, eight counties’ legislators have backed sanctuary sheriffs. Roughly, 20 of Washington State’s sheriffs have refused to enforce the new gun laws, and five county legislators officially backed them with legislation. New Mexico has seen more than 20 of its 33 counties pass laws giving the sheriff discretion to determine which gun laws are unconstitutional.
Illinois is also active in this area, but its actions are more muted as the new gun legislation has not yet been passed. There are also groups in California, New York, Idaho, and Iowa that are sharing information with those who have already taken a stand. They are carefully tracking proposed local laws and what occurs in the areas that have already declared their defiance.
On the surface, this is a great thing. Local elected officials are standing up for the Constitution, the preservation of rights of the electorate, and doing it despite intense negative media coverage.
I stand in solidarity with this course of action. It does two things. First, it very effectively draws a line in the sand. This will force lawsuits or other legal action and force courts to determine who is correct. Our side will win some and lose others.
This will set up a Supreme Court date where further incorporation of the Second Amendment will have to be determined. This of course assumes the Supreme Court doesn’t punt, again.
Second, it uses the nullification efforts of the left against them. If the sheriffs cannot nullify state laws that violate the U.S. Constitution, how can state immigration sanctuary laws be legal when the federal laws they void are constitutionally legitimate?
The true downside to this is slightly less obvious. When one group unilaterally refuses to enforce a set of laws and the courts back them despite precedent, this is the first step toward a nation of men, not a nation of laws. When the other side nullifies a different set of laws, regardless of how the courts act, the second step has been taken on the path to a Banana Republic.
Note, I am not saying the sheriffs shouldn’t do what they are doing. They are doing what must be done. I am simply stating that the Republic is getting much closer to the cliff with each reaction to the grand overreach of our “pen and a phone” would-be dictators.