As Democrat-run states are adopting increasingly restrictive gun control measures, local law enforcement leaders are pushing back, saying they aren’t going to enforce them because they believe them to be unconstitutional.
That includes the state of Washington, which has been a sort of battleground over gun rights for the past year.
In November, voters passed I-1639 by a 60-percent margin, which calls for:
— Raising the legal age for a resident to purchase a rifle to 21 (though the federal age limit is 18 — and that’s likely because young men can still be drafted into the military at the age of 18);
— The creation of an “enhanced background check system similar to what is used for handguns” — something the federal government already has;
— Requiring residents to complete a firearms safety course before they can buy a gun (which appears to be a clear violation of the Second Amendment’s “infringement” clause);
— Creating a common set of rules for secure gun storage (see above “infringement” reference).
But sheriffs across the state have refused to enforce the new law because again, they believe the provisions are major violations of the Second Amendment.
Spokane Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich has even received death threats, ironically, over his opposition to I-1639, by persons who said they’d shoot him.
The position of county sheriffs has angered Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who released a letter to them on Tuesday telling them they have a legal obligation to enforce laws on the books (unless, of course, they are federal immigration laws).
“Numerous sheriffs and police chiefs have stated that they will not implement or enforce the initiative. I want to share my thoughts on this important issue, which affects both the safety of our communities and respect for the rule of law,” he wrote in an “open letter.”
“Like all laws passed by the people of Washington and their representatives, Initiative 1639 is presumed constitutional. No court has ruled that this initiative is unconstitutional,” Ferguson continued.
“I will defend Initiative 1639 against any legal challenge. My office defeated the legal challenge to the previous gun safety initiative passed by the people, and I am confident we will defeat any constitutional challenge to Initiative 1639 as well.
“Local law enforcement officials are entitled to their opinions about the constitutionality of any law, but those personal views do not absolve us of our duty to enforce Washington laws and protect the public,” he added.
What happens if sheriffs don’t enforce the law?
“…[I]n the event a police chief or sheriff refuses to perform the background check required by Initiative 1639, they could be held liable if there is a sale or transfer of a firearm to a dangerous individual prohibited from possessing a firearm and that individual uses that firearm to do harm,” Ferguson wrote.
“In short, the taxpayers of your city or county assume the financial risk of your decision to impose your personal views over the law.”
Ferguson even mentions the supposed difference between the enforcement of federal and state laws.
“Analogies to marijuana and immigration law enforcement are misplaced. This is not a situation where the federal government is trying to force the state to enforce federal laws,” he wrote.
“Rather, Initiative 1639 was submitted to the people of Washington and was adopted as state law by nearly 60% of the people. No action by a city council or county commission can change this state law or the responsibilities and duties that the law vests in Washington’s law enforcement agencies,” he noted further.
Ferguson’s loyalties to his state aside, he’s mistaken in his view of which laws must be enforced (ALL state laws) and which ones can be ‘selectively ignored’ by the state (certain federal laws).
Notes the Cornell Law School:
Article IV, Paragraph 2 of the U.S. Constitution is commonly referred to as the Supremacy Clause. It establishes that the federal constitution, and federal law generally, take precedence over state laws, and even state constitutions. It prohibits states from interfering with the federal government’s exercise of its constitutional powers, and from assuming any functions that are exclusively entrusted to the federal government. It does not, however, allow the federal government to review or veto state laws before they take effect.
The fact that Washington has passed a law legalizing recreational use of marijuana while adopting public policies blocking enforcement of federal immigration laws are blatant violations of the Supremacy Clause. If anyone can be held accountable, it’s Ferguson and Gov. Jay Inslee.
Beyond that, it’s hypocritical for Ferguson to chide Washington sheriffs over their refusal to enforce laws they believe to be unconstitutional while he ignores federal statutes that supersede those in his state.
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