The position of elected county sheriff is probably one of the most powerful government positions about which few people know. They are the top law enforcement officer in their respective county, and can (and have) tell the federal government and state government to take a hike.
As our country in general, and some states in particular (*cough* California *cough*) have continued to disintegrate socially and economically, many Americans have looked for ways to try to stop the bleeding, especially at the local level. Using the power of county sheriffs has been one of these major strategies.
One of the ways that Constitution-loving county sheriffs have attempted to pool together their power is through membership in an organization called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA). The members of this organization know their constitutional role, both at the state and federal level, and do everything they can to stop those governments from exercising more power than the Constitution allows.
Naturally, the statists among us don't like this very much. This became painfully clear in an editorial appearing in the Sunday, August 25th Sacramento Bee. The Bee's editorial board calls the CSPOA, "a deeply misguided and ill-informed organization whose reckless rhetoric directly challenges federal and state laws."
The Bee's editorial board especially has their panties in a bunch because the California sheriffs who belong to the CSPOA have announced they do not intend to allow to be enforced in their respective counties any anti-gun laws that they have deemed to be unconstitutional - whether it be the U.S. Constitution or the California Constitution.
According to the Bee's editorial board, doing this is to, "pick and choose which laws to enforce," and that the CSPOA's stated positions about upholding the Constitution and protecting us from government tyranny and abuse are a bunch of "tripe," and "extremist rhetoric."
No, see, the way it works is that if a law is truly constitutional, then the Bee's editorial board might have a point in criticizing county sheriffs for not upholding that law. But if a law is deemed to be unconstitutional, then a constitutional officer, such as, say, a county sheriff, has every obligation to refuse to enforce that unconstitutional law. I commend sheriffs such as Dean Wilson of Del Norte County, John D'Agostini of El Dorado County, and Jon Lopey of my childhood home county of Siskiyou and 21 other California sheriffs who are named by the Bee editorial as members of the CSPOA.
How about a little historical challenge to the Bee editorial board's position on this issue? As part of the Compromise of 1850, the Congress passed, and President Millard Fillmore signed into law a strengthened Fugitive Slave Law that decreed that slaves from the southern slave states that escaped to the non-slave northern states were no longer safe and could be captured and returned to a state of slavery. Furthermore, any northern state citizen (even one who was totally opposed to slavery) could be deputized on the spot by law enforcement in order to help capture or subdue an escaped slave. If that deputized citizen refused to help execute the Fugitive Slave Law, that citizen could himself be arrested.
This was a law that was totally unconstitutional, but it was passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President. According to the logic of the Bee editorial board, a county sheriff in one of these non-slave holding states who refused to allow the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act to be enforced in his county would be guilty of "pick[ing] and choos[ing] which laws to enforce." And if the sheriff publicly made his views against enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law known, he would be uttering so much "tripe" and "extremist rhetoric."
Now, I'm pretty sure I know what the editorial board's rebuttal would be to my argument: They would insist that the gun laws the California legislature has recently passed or is attempting to pass are all constitutional. Fine. But the county sheriffs of the CSPOA can say that these laws are not constitutional and still refuse to enforce them. The California State Supreme Court and even the U.S. Supreme Court can insist that the laws are constitutional, and the sheriffs can still insist the laws are unconstitutional and refuse to allow them to be enforced in their county. Ultimately, it is up to the voters of the county to either agree with their sheriff's position by reelecting him or her, or booting that sheriff out of office in the next election, and replacing him or her with someone who will do what they are told by the federal government, the California government, and the Sacramento Bee editorial board.
That is what representative government is all about, right?