As of Thursday, December 26, 2013
The Albany Democrat-Herald, Dec. 18, on sheriffs’ role in guns debate:
It looks as if Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller might have been a few months ahead of his time.
Back in January, as you may recall, Mueller fired off a letter to Vice President Joe Biden. In the letter, Mueller said, in essence, that his deputies wouldn’t enforce any federal law that he believed trampled on Second Amendment rights.
Now, as the year draws to a close, sheriffs across the nation (especially in Western states) are starting to follow a similar line, according to a story that ran over the weekend in The New York Times.
The newspaper focused on Sheriff John Cooke of Colorado’s Weld County, who’s making the rounds of the state explaining why his deputies aren’t enforcing some of that state’s new gun laws, including one banning ammunition magazines with more than 15 rounds and another mandating background checks for private gun transfers.
Cooke is by no means alone in Colorado. Some sheriffs there say that they won’t enforce the laws because they violate the Second Amendment — a judgment that, frankly, they might be better off leaving to the courts. To that point, though, the vast majority of sheriffs in Colorado have joined a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the statutes — a legal step that, of course, is well within their rights. Other sheriffs in the state just saythe laws won’t be high on their list to enforce.
Which raises an interesting point: Certainly, sheriffs swear to enforce the laws within their jurisdictions — but they have to prioritize issues. And, of course, individual sheriffs have wide latitude in determining which items move to the top of the “to-do” list — in fact, that’s one of the reasons we elect sheriffs, to make those judgment calls.
Sheriffs, as elected officials, always will (at least to some extent) reflect the standards of the communities they serve. It’s worth remembering that Mueller drew wide support from county residents in the wake of his letter to Biden.
It all tosses another bump in the road for those who would tighten restrictions on gun ownership in Oregon: If the measures are destined to be widely ignored by Oregon law enforcement officials, what’s the point?