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By now, you have probably heard the disturbing news out of California, Colorado, Florida and New York that a somewhat random cohort of sheriffs is refusing to enforce some federal gun laws, arguing that they are constitutionally vague.
But, in case you hadn’t, the New York Times noticed, by golly, and spread the word earlier this month in an overwrought, nearly 2,000-word account of this ominous lurch toward sedition. The Times quoted various sheriffs who contend that those laws are confusing, in some cases unenforceable, and may not be constitutional.
Who do these sheriffs think they are anyway, deciding on their own whether they should enforce the law?
New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared that the refusal of a couple of sheriffs to enforce his state’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE), which mandates universal background checks, could set “a dangerous and frightening precedent.”
Well, yeah, it could, if the precedent of refusing to enforce existing laws or unilaterally modifying them had not already been set, multiple times, by the leader of Cuomo’s party, President Obama.
From the fever swamps of the left, the Daily Kos website scolded the sheriffs for “breaking a public trust."
"They should remember that they are meant to be the servants of the law, not its masters,” one of their writers huffed.
Ah, yes, servants of the law. Such high-minded, self-righteous devotion to the law would be touching if it weren’t so, uh, selective.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the Daily Kos, other leftist organizations, members of Congress and President Obama openly support exactly what they are condemning here, when it comes to other issues.
In their view, the law, as written, doesn’t really matter anymore if they perceive it as inconvenient, immoral, too nationalistic or anything else they find personally objectionable. The law is no longer what it says but what they want it to say, or what they decide to enforce.
I think the whole problem for the sheriffs is a failure of marketing. They need to take a page from the advocates of illegal immigration. They should simply describe the areas where they will not be enforcing certain gun laws as “Sanctuary Cities.”
How American is the concept of sanctuary? I mean, it says it right there on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore." And, of course, what it meant to include was, "and don’t worry about abiding by our immigration laws.”
The sheriffs need to make sure that they conflate legal and illegal gun ownership. They should contend, ceaselessly, that anybody who opposes illegal gun ownership is opposed to gun ownership in general. Because that is the mantra on immigration: Anybody who opposes illegal immigration is “anti-immigrant.”
That means the sheriffs need to scrub troublesome words like “law” and “illegal” out of any discussions of the issue so they don’t muddy the narrative.
Anybody packing heat illegally will simply be described as “lacking proper documentation” for the right to carry his or her weapon. Why should the absence of a few slips of paper matter?
If the sheriffs get any grief from the public or other government officials, they should follow the example of our elected leaders. They should say there is a need for “comprehensive firearm reform” that will provide a “pathway to gun ownership." Everybody who is breaking the law every day in the meantime gets a pass because Congress can’t get its act together, which is to say that Congress hasn’t passed the kind of legislation the sheriffs want.
They should follow Obama’s lead and hold press conferences to say, “We can’t wait” for Congress to act (the way they wish), so they will act in Congress’ stead.
And, yes, all of this would be both dangerous and absurd.
Those who are complaining about the sheriffs are correct. The Daily Kos is correct to assert that government officials should be “servants of the law,” not its masters.
But why are they surprised? When this kind of conduct comes from the top, it trickles down. That is the really dangerous, frightening thing.
It is not just that the president decided, on his own, that he would not enforce laws on immigration, marriage and other issues that he had sworn an oath to uphold. He won’t even enforce the law he fought to pass – his signature health care law.
By most estimates, Obama has now modified that law at least 14 times without the consent of Congress. While he and his acolytes regularly remind opponents of Obamacare that it is “settled law,” they ignore, delay or modify its provisions to grant waivers to favored groups or delay any that are politically inconvenient.
One of the most recent – and mind boggling – was the announcement that those with canceled insurance plans would now be allowed to buy cheaper, so-called “catastrophic” plans - the exact kinds of plans that that have been banned by the law and ridiculed as “substandard.”
In this country, the rule has always been: If you don’t like the law, work to change it. The president and his party have changed that to: If you don’t like the law, ignore it.
They can’t really blame the sheriffs for following their example.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org