Virginia Sheriffs gun control
Virginia sheriffs who support the Second Amendment sactuary movement (Courtesy VCDL)

By Alex Ooley

Many states around the country, like Virginia, have been making a push to implement stringent gun control measures that include, among other things, universal background checks, magazine capacity limits, and so-called “assault weapons” bans. These attempts to regulate firearms are nothing new, but the efforts to implement these sorts of laws and regulations has seemingly intensified in recent years.

In response to these intensified efforts to implement anti-gun, anti-freedom legislation by state governments, there has been a big movement to create “Second Amendment sanctuaries” in states and counties throughout the country. These Second Amendment sanctuaries are typically counties (or sometimes states) where there has been some kind of declaration or resolution that laws violating the Second Amendment will not be enforced.

Virginia has been at the forefront of the Second Amendment sanctuary movement, where approximately 91 out of 95 counties have declared themselves to be Second Amendment sanctuaries. This sanctuary movement along with a recent rally in Richmond, Virginia, has added momentum to the Second Amendment sanctuary movement around the country, and sheriffs throughout Indiana are feeling pressure to respond.

In response to this pressure, there have been varying levels of commitment by sheriffs to protect individual rights, and it’s useful to evaluate the various responses. In the end, many sheriffs find themselves trying to strike a balance between “enforcing the law” and “protecting individual rights.” Let’s explore the various approaches sheriffs have taken, and you can decide which approach is best.

First, there is the approach taken by Sheriff Kenny Freeman of Jennings County, Indiana. In response to a bill written by Indiana State Senator Greg Taylor that included a provision banning gun magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammo, Sheriff Freeman authored a resolution that declares Jennings County a sanctuary county, and mayors in the county signed the paper pledging support.

Freeman said if his deputies were to stop someone who didn’t have a criminal background, who had a legal firearm that had a magazine deemed illegal by the proposed new law or any other, then that person would likely be told to go on his or her merry way.

Furthermore, Sheriff Freeman has said that he would not enforce any illegitimate law, which he calls an “Unlawful Act” and that these “Unlawful Acts” include:

any federal or state act, law, order, rule, or regulation which bans or effectively bans, registers or effectively registers, or limits the lawful use of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition (other than that which is already in place as of the date of adoption of this Resolution). Any such “Unlawful Act” is invalid in Jennings County; is specifically rejected by the voters of Jennings County; and shall be considered null, void, and of no effect in Jennings County…

Sheriff Freeman would not enforce the “law” because he considers this type of law a violation of our rights.

Another approach is one taken by Sheriff Jerry Goodin of Scott County, Indiana and also by Sheriff Rodney Robinson of Steuben County, Indiana. Each of these sheriffs published nearly identical statements that they called a “Proclamation.” Each statement can be seen here and here.

Aside from the fact that these statements are nearly identical except in font style, there are a couple of interesting provisions in each “Proclamation.” The first is the provision that says:

BE IT FURTHER KNOWN, the Sheriff of Scott County, Indiana shall not enforce any law that has been determined by an appropriate court to violate either the Constitution of the United States of America or the Constitution of the State of Indiana…

This provision is essentially saying that the Sheriff of Scott County is not taking any position about the Constitutionality of any law. Rather, the Sheriff is deferring to an “appropriate court” to make a determination about the Constitutionality of a law. This is basically a non-statement, but it is important when read in conjunction with the following provision:

BE IT FURTHER KNOWN, the Sheriff of Scott County, Indiana guarantees the great people of Scott County, Indiana that the “Rule of Law” will be enforced and the ”rule of force, intimidation and fear will be diminished.”

These two provisions, read in conjunction, seem to indicate that the Sheriff of Scott County, Indiana will enforce the law, no matter what the law is, as long as no court has said it is unconstitutional. As you will notice, the “Proclamation” from the Scott County sheriff and the Steuben County sheriff are identical.

It’s not clear who actually authored these proclamations, but they appear to have been authored with the intent to avoid taking a position on any specific law. For instance, would Sheriff Goodin or Sheriff Robinson enforce a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds if an “appropriate court” had not previously determined such a law to be unconstitutional?

It seems clear that Sheriff Freeman would not enforce such a law, but Sheriff Goodin and Sheriff Robinson would enforce this type of gun control law.

But that begs another question – what is the role of your local sheriff? Should they simply “enforce the law,” protect your rights, or “keep the peace”?

Sheriff Richard Mack, the former sheriff from Graham County, Arizona, draws a distinction that many sheriffs, unfortunately, don’t understand — the distinction between a “peace officer” and a “law enforcement officer.”

Mack explained that the role of the sheriff is not to “enforce the law,” but rather to “secure these rights” outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This is an important distinction and one that more sheriffs need to understand.

Greg Ellifritz, police officer and well-known trainer, also makes this point on his blog, where he says that police officers should use the law as a tool to help us accomplish the goal of keeping the peace. Cops who mindlessly “enforce the law” may or may not accomplish the goal of “keeping the peace.” He goes on to say:

The best police officers in this country don’t act like mindless automatons. Cops who robotically enforce every law on the books seldom accomplish anything useful besides generating measurable statistics to please a supervisor. “Law Enforcement” shouldn’t be the goal of a good police officer. In fact most officers would be far better off if “enforcing the law” became a much lower priority in their day-to-day patrol activities.

In considering the significance of the various approaches that sheriffs may take, it is useful to consider that sanctuary counties and towns are passing resolutions, which typically indicate that no funding will be used to enforce unconstitutional laws. These are just resolutions, not ordinances, and have no force of law.

The primary impact of these resolutions is not a legal one and is merely symbolic. Thus, the only real barrier between the citizens of a certain locality and an unconstitutional law is the local sheriff.

County sheriffs, practically speaking, are the last line of defense in the battle for rights. Federal agencies do not have state powers, and due to the U.S. Constitution’s structure of dual sovereignty, the feds have no authority to enforce state laws.

Furthermore, based on the legal concept of anti-commandeering, states cannot be legally compelled to enforce federal laws. After your county sheriff, the only thing left protecting your rights is you and your loved ones.

With that in mind, which kind of sheriff would you rather have on your side? Do you want one who simply enforces “the Rule of Law” or one who is serving the community to protect your rights and keep the peace?

Please remember, Second Amendment sanctuaries are a measure of last resort, and although we generally support the Second Amendment sanctuary movement, we are much better off playing offense rather than defense with respect to our rights. An offensive approach to securing our rights involves taking action to influence state and federal legislators to enact or rescind laws in order to create a positive environment for our rights.

Perhaps more importantly, we need to also increase our efforts to make sure we elect local, state, and national representatives who are pro-freedom. Imagine if all of the folks involved in the Second Amendment sanctuary movement had been this involved in preventing state and local governments from becoming anti-gun in the first place.

 

This article originally appeared at ooleylaw.com and is reprinted here with permission. 

51 COMMENTS

      • In many cases, it can’t really because the Board of Supervisors have eroded the meaning of Sheriff and installed a Police Department that does their bidding. They’re trying to undermine the Sheriff in Faquier (I think… might be Loudon… been a long day) and put in their own Police Department. It’s been done in other counties, too, like Fairfax. The Sheriff is limited in duty to things like prisoner transport, handling warrants, and other misc things.

        • “Are you claiming the police nationwide are NOT enforcing the Red Flag laws?

          Please provide statistics.”

          What a F’in JOKE.
          After weeks of being called a “red flag” on TTAG (by several comment section trolls), I provided the Gunbroker transaction number and detailed description (the Steyr AUG NATO Spec w/20″ barrel) so the “red flag” could proceed.
          I’m not sure if red flags are being enforced. But I know those crying “red flag” on TTAG are just hot air.

      • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_flag_law

        Someone is enforcing them. Maybe it’s the enforcers?

        You cannot have both. It’s either your rights, or their enforcement of tyranny. From traffic tickets to red flag laws, it’s all the same. It’s a job to them. You take the kings shillings, you do the kings bidding. So naive.

    • *what you consider to be your rights
      This is an important point because, believe it or not, most cops do not get up in the morning and think “alright, let’s go out and violate some rights!” SOME people think they have the right to drive a car without a driver’s license by calling it “traveling.” They think that is their right. The courts disagree. The law disagrees. So do you expect cops to defer to everyone who has that pet view of their rights? I have heard from a few former co-workers who ended up as LEOs in Virginia that they are looking to get anywhere else because they don’t want to be involved in enforcing these laws. Fair enough, but someone will be tapped to take their positions. Maybe someone from a big city that has never shot a gun before training and has no particular view on the Constitutionality of red flag laws (or whatever).

      The long and short of it is that no one should be expecting cops to be deciding Constitutional law on an individual (i.e. every cop) basis. And until there’s 100% voter turnout, I don’t see why anyone would feel the need to look at the street level.

      • Thank you for providing clarity that the police are currently enforcing obviously unConstitutional laws.

        That their departments are still confiscating guns, holding people in county jails, and using SWAT to effect these arrests.

        That the arrestees are forced to obtain private legal counsel if they want to circumnavigate a long and harrowing legal process that puts all the responsibility of proof on the arrestee.

        And that the police are simply “doing their jobs” because it is not in their purview to interpret the law on a case by case basis, and if they do not perform the duty someone will take their place.

        In other words; my original posit is validated.

      • “The long and short of it is that no one should be expecting cops to be deciding Constitutional law on an individual (i.e. every cop) basis. And until there’s 100% voter turnout, I don’t see why anyone would feel the need to look at the street level.”

        Excerpt from Virginia State Trooper Pledge…

        ” I shall obey the laws of the United States of America
        and of the Commonwealth of Virginia,
        and shall support and defend their constitutions
        against all enemies whomsoever, foreign and domestic.
        I shall always be loyal to and uphold
        the honor of my organization, my State and my Country.”

        They take an oath to do exactly that.

  1. East & west coasts at this point in time are lost to the gun grabbers,
    Unless politicians are voted out of office or their anti constitutional laws are voted down by the people, it’s just going to get worse, most the sheriff’s are pro constitution, hopefully the Supreme Court will step in and put a end to the anti’s agenda of disarmament, but don’t hold your breath.

  2. Here in the mountains of Virginia, my Democrat sheriff has said he will not make arrests based on violations of the recently passed or soon to be passed gun laws. Our Democrat commonwealth attorney has said he would not prosecute anyone based on those laws.

    • I am paranoid, I have trouble believing anything that a democrat says because so many of them lie about what they will do.

      I’m not saying it is impossible but I have a hard time believe someone is pro 2A and are a democrat. The democrat party is dedicated to disarming all American citizens. How can anyone vote for a democrat if they value their 2A rights?

      Seems to me a democrat Sheriff and Prosecutor are trouble waiting in the wings.

      • Local politics can create strange bedfellows indeed in coal country and small mountain towns. The unions (and mine operators) have lost much of their former power, however, loyalties die hard. That said, the votes of entire families can hinge on a single favor or insult.

    • Same thing here more-or-less. (There are a few blue counties sprinkled about — and probably at least one of them borders my county.)

  3. I’m in a “Red” county. But it used to be a “Blue” county. The strange thing is, this was a crooked “Blue” county where the one and only bail bond place was owned by the county sheriff and conveniently located across the street from the jail, and now it’s a crooked “Red” county. This county is also a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” Don’t bet on that doing you any good because they’ll say anything to get reelected and then they’ll do whatever they feel like.

    • Bloomberg was a Republican. Trump was a Democrat. Yet Republicans believe Bloomberg was always a Democrat and Trump was never.

      Trump and Bloomberg are very similar people and have supported similar policies. However, one of them was actually good at business.

        • Don’t you dare call me a shill. Bloomberg is the man we need to save this country from Trump and the likes of you idiotic republican gun owners. Bloomberg perfected New York City turning it from a crime and gun ridden cesspool into a safe haven of democracy and wealth. Bloomberg will be president and you will have to accept it. You filthy racist gun owners will be the ones screaming at the sky this time.

        • Automatic with the racism. Cheif is definitely a paid shill. Don’t talk bad about his sugar daddy.

      • Trump was a Democrat because as a real estate developer in New York and New Jersey he didn’t really have and choice. It was a matter of survival. That is how crooked and corrupt NY and NJ are. He couldn’t have built a bus stop otherwise.

  4. “Freeman said if his deputies were to stop someone who DIDN’T HAVE A CRIMINAL BACKGROUND, who had a legal firearm that had a magazine deemed illegal by the proposed new law or any other, then that person would LIKELY be told to go on his or her merry way…”

    If I were someone with some penny-ante criminal charges in my past I’m not sure I would trust that statement. And “likely” basically renders the whole thing moot. I’ll “likely” get away with breaking these laws even without police intervention. So how does it make much of a difference?

    • The “statement” from that sheriff, which only vaguely resembles any sort of “statement,” had me wondering too…. it means he and his deputies will do whatever they feel like while placating the populace with lovely bs.

  5. What will MY sheriff do? Hollywood Tom Dart will continue to be a leftard pro-criminal a-hole. Cook County,ILL will never be anything but a corrupt cesspool…

  6. “What Will Your County Sheriff Do Under a Second Amendment Sanctuary Declaration?”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    I live in L.A. County, in the once-great State of California, so this is the stuff of legend and myth. Not happening here anytime in the near future…

  7. In the former-Constitution State of Connecticut county government was essentially eliminated in 1960,it remained mainly for geographical reasons… This brought the power to Hartford ; the last remnants of county government the County Sheriffs Office was eliminated in 2000. Today we have States Marshals that are State Employees and they take care of the courts and civil process. In CT we have local police, resident troopers, and state troopers…resident troopers are assogned to rural towns that might or might not have an organized force…if organized it is a small force under the direction of the RT. I have talked to cops who are members of the gun clubs I belong to…none of them think that either state or local cops would confiscate…red flag is different..CT was one of the first to institute it… sucks. I hate seeing gun owner rights, Constitutional Rights being trampled on in the name of gun violence aka (civilian disarmament)

  8. I live in a historically red county that isn’t as deep a shade of red nowadays. The sheriff has an R after his name, but it pretty much stands for RINO. He begrudgingly allows us to obtain carry permits, but only because this is a “shall issue” state. He takes so long trying to find an excuse for a negatory, that we don’t get our permits until the day of the delivery deadline, after which we could sue him for it. The flip side of it is, all our carriers are squeaky clean.

  9. My sheriff, who is pro-2A and “essentially shall issue” in California, has retired prior to an election cycle so that he could appoint his successor. I have no idea what the new sheriff will be like. Or for that matter what the city chief of police will do. And then again, we are surrounded on three sides by (mostly) federal forest or BLM land, and I doubt the federal forest service LEOs have any problem enforcing federal law. Some of them are so anti-gun they have paroxysms of joy when they get to enforce state law also.

  10. The power is in vetting those that run for office and vote appropriately. The politician that gets into office must be reminded. The people possess the power to terminate their employment at the ballot box. And while they’re in office, they must be reminded that they work for the people. The moment we let it slip, the more empowered they’ll become. And before you know it, the Constitution will be a thing of the past.

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