The Faithful Sheriffs
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The refusal of sheriffs to enforce laws on gun control is at the top of page one of the New York Times this morning. Nice to see it there, as this is one of our favorite stories, trans-combining all the conflicting elements of federalism and constitutionalism. The Times focuses on the decision of the sheriff of Weld County, Colorado, to hang back from enforcing a law banning the possession, sale, or transfer of so-called large=capacity magazines. It describes the sheriff, John Cooke, holding up two magazines, one bought before and one after the ban went into effect, and challenging members of an audience to tell the difference. Even if an officer could tell the difference, the law is as unconstitutional as a ban on gospel music or a trial by a jury of kings.
No doubt the Times is already fermenting on an editorial saying how horrible it is for a sheriff to be deciding for himself what state laws he will or will not enforce. The wonderful thing about this is that the responsibility of the sheriffs in respect of the Constitution is no different than the responsibility of the President or a Supreme Court judge or a Senator. They are all bound by oath or affirmation to support it. Sheriff Cooke is a smart man. He can read plain English just as well as, say, President Obama. So he has to make a decision in respect of the Second Amendment. Last time we looked, it said the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
The thing for critics of Sheriff Cooke to ferment on is the similarity between Sheriff Cooke’s position on so-called large capacity magazines and President Obama’s on the Defense of Marriage Act. The latter was the law prohibiting the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages solemnized by a state. It was passed on a bipartisan vote in the Congress and signed by President Clinton. One day, Mr. Obama woke up and decided he wouldn’t enforce it on the grounds that it was not constitutional. Eventually the question got to the Supreme Court and Mr. Obama won. Sometimes it turns out that the courts side with the officer who refused to enforce a law.