Sheriffs and State Legislators Spearhead Growing Opposition to Proposed Federal Gun Control Laws

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As President Obama pitched his gun control proposals to Minnesota law enforcement officials on Monday, more than 225 county sheriffs nationwide and 16 state legislatures were drafting resolutions and proposed laws challenging the Constitutionality of his initiatives, and vowing not to enforce any federal law they maintain violates the Second Amendment.

Obama, two days after the White House released an August photo of him skeet-shooting at Camp David, called for law enforcement officials to support his call to ban semi-automatic weapons and impose universal background checks for gun buyers during a speech at the Minneapolis Police Department’s Special Operations Center, marking the first time he has campaigned for his proposals outside of Washington.

And, by many accounts, his proposals are not playing well beyond the Beltway.

According to the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, as of Feb. 1, at least 226 sheriffs across the U.S. have vowed to defend the Constitutional right to bear arms — a number that more than doubled last week and is expected to continue to grow as sheriffs’ organizations meet to discuss proposed federal gun control initiatives.

Last week, 28 of 29 Utah county sheriffs sent Obama letters saying they won’t enforce gun laws they believe would violate the Second Amendment. In Ohio, four sheriffs are calling for all 88 county sheriffs to meet and come to a “unified” decision on how — or if — they will enforce any federal gun control mandates.

“I’m in total support of the Second Amendment,” Richland County Sheriff Steve Sheldon told Mark Caudill of the Mansfield News Journal. “I think what the federal government is trying to do is wrong and how they’re doing it is wrong.”

Meanwhile, according to the Tenth Amendment Center, Tennessee on Monday became the 16th state since Jan. 15 in which state legislators have introduced a proposal to prohibit the federal government from imposing taxes on firearms, banning firearms, and tracking firearms in their state.

As with most of the other states where lawmakers have introduced such bills, the new legislation amends an existing Firearms Freedom Act, in this case, the Tennessee Firearms Freedom Act of 2009.

State Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and State Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia proposed legislation in both chambers. If enacted, it would apply to all firearms.

“This is just our response to amend a law that’s already on the books to say that if any federal official or if anybody tries to take away our guns, we will protect our state sovereignty,” Beavers said.

Under the new legislation, people who enforce federal laws regulating guns in Tennessee would also be punished.

“We have made it a Class B felony if any federal employee tries to confiscate guns in this state,” Beavers said.

In Texas, state Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, has introduced a bill seeking to ban statewide any federal action limiting firearms, which would also allow Texas police to arrest federal law enforcement officers attempting to enforce any federal gun or ammunition bans.

In Utah, state Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, has introduced the State Supremacy Firearms Act, which restores state sovereignty protected by the 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which gives states regulatory authority over anything not specifically delegated to the federal government — including firearms.

Some Constitutional scholars question the legality of these proposed state laws, especially those measures making it a crime for federal officials to enforce federal laws in their states.

Akram Faizer, an Assistant Professor of Law at Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law, in Knoxville, Tenn., said the bills have many Constitutional shortcomings.

“The law is also unconstitutional because it seeks to criminalize federal officials trying to enforce federal law in the state of Tennessee,” he told WBIR News in Knoxville, noting the proposal contradicts Article 6 Section 2 of the Constitution, the Supremacy Clause.

The clause “specifically states that U.S. law, when it in conflict with the law of a individual state, is supreme,” he said.

Maybe, writes Joe Wolverton in Feb. 3’s New American, but maybe not.

Article 6 “protects federal laws made ‘in pursuance’ of the Constitution,” Wolverton writes. “Laws made in violation of the Constitution deserve no such respect.”

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