'No' Sheriff in Town: Some Lawmen Refuse to Enforce Federal Gun Laws


NBC News:

’No’ Sheriff in Town: Some Lawmen Refuse to Enforce Federal Gun Laws

With more states passing stronger gun control laws, rural sheriffs across the country are taking their role as defenders of the Constitution to a new level by protesting such restrictions and, in some cases, refusing to enforce the laws. Sheriff Mike Lewis considers himself the last man standing for the people of Wicomico County, Maryland.

“State police and highway patrol get their orders from the governor,” the sheriff said. “I get my orders from the citizens in this county.”

Lewis and other like-minded sheriffs have been joined by groups like Oath Keepers and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, both of which encourage law enforcement officers to take a stand against gun control laws.

The role of a sheriff

While the position of sheriff is not found in the U.S. Constitution, it is listed in state constitutions. Nearly all of America’s 3,080 sheriffs are elected to their positions, whereas state and city police officials are appointed.
Lewis and other sheriffs, and their supporters, say that puts them in the best position to stand up to gun laws they consider unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms.

“The role of a sheriff is to be the interposer between the law and the citizen,” said Maryland Delegate Don Dwyer, an Anne Arundel County Republican. **“He should stand between the government and citizen in every issue pertaining to the law.” **

I’ve never heard quite that take on the role of a sheriff but I’d certainly say if the Feds want gun laws, them do the enforcement.


Well, the problem is we’re descending into lawlessness. The DAs in several states have refused to do their jobs in defending the laws of their state in court when appealed, for example prohibitions on same sex marriage. Attorney General Holder even urged them to do this.

Then we have the federal and state governments which haven’t just been refusing to enforce immigration law, but actively aiding and abetting it’s violation.

We have the states which have passed marijuana laws in direct opposition to the federal governments laws. (What really annoys me here, is that when folks in those states are busted by the feds- they’re on their own. They’re the ones charged by the feds and left out to hang high and dry-- not the politicians who passed the laws. They should be charged too. If this is a state’s rights issue, they should file with the accused to defend them.)

The current administration has done many things in violation of the law. Going further than deciding how to execute them-- but actually getting away with modifying them, in the ACA taking actions directly contradictory to the letter of the law. Not the executive’s job- it should go back to congress to be amended. Make the idiots who created the unworkable mess fix it, vice all these on the fly mods. (Yeah, I know the purpose was to break the system and drive us to universal care. But let congress do it, carry out the law. There is no check on executive or congressional power if we don’t follow the processes).

As much as I agree with the motives of the sheriffs, I disagree with them selectively enforcing the law every bit as much as I object to selective enforcement or willful violation of the federal laws in the above cases. Certainly most of the gun laws are infringements on our civil rights and unconstitutional, but that should be decided via the courts not on an individual sheriff’s opinion. It’s bad enough we’ve got inequitable treatement of civil rights from state-to-state, much less from county to county.



The last thing the federal government wants is more work.

Benefits, title, prestige, your money, an unhealthy “I’'m better than you” complex, yes.


The last thing I want is more federal involvement at the local level. Nothing good ever comes from ATF involvement.


That was a great post and I agree with all of it except possibly the conclusion. :slight_smile:

The problem is that judges are appointed by the same people who created the unfair laws to begin with. In states like Maryland (and unfortunately Virginia), there is a huge difference between different parts of the state, which has the end result that a slim majority (well, slim and wavering in VA but a bit wider in MD) of the urban/suburban population in a geographically small part of the state can create laws for other parts of the state where the people have a very different lifestyle and mindset. A gun means something very different to someone living in a high-rise in Bethesda, MD (inside the beltway) than it does to someone in Salisbury, MD (in Wicomico county on the Delmarva penninsula). So gun laws that seem reasonable to the Bethesda person really aren’t reasonable for other parts of the state. However, getting any kind of change out of an appeal to courts in MD is unlikely to have any success, because the judges would be appointed by the majority folks too.

OTOH, if the sheriff goes around arresting people for breaking laws that the community as a whole thinks are unjust, and which represent a large change from “how it’s always been” there, he stands a good chance of not getting re-elected, so they’ll just keep electing new sheriffs until they get one that listens to the people.

So I agree with you in strict logic and desire for lawfulness, but I also very much understand the sheriffs’ position on the issue, and I’m not sure I would do differently in their places.

Just :twocents: or so.



That’s not really the issue AFAIK, it is state laws in MD that are the problem.



I’m in CA, a single party state and my politicians literally couldn’t care less what I think. Contacting them via their email, they even have a very limited selection for the subject line. One was 5 bills or a general comment. That’s it, if you don’t care about those 5 bills and are writing about any of the other 100s being considered- eh, the flunkie reading the general comments may or may not pass it along. We are governed by the insane in this state. So, I understand about a small minority controlling the laws.

In fact, I think the vast majority of gun laws are unconstitutional and really shouldn’t have been passed. If I allow the sheriff to disregard the laws I don’t like, I can’t really be upset if he doesn’t enforce the laws I do agree with. Suppose in his mind he thinks child porn should be protected by the 1st amendment? Ok, he gets voted out eventually. What about the victims during his tenure? What about the next sheriff and his personal views? If a sheriff disagrees with the laws and can’t do his job of enforcing them in good conscience- quit and make a statement, or file a suit for an injunction against enforcing the laws while they’re challenged in court.

Either we have a system of law and order or we don’t.


Very oddly, lawmakers seem to completely disregard the fact that the law affects only those who obey it. Criminals are de facto exempt from all such laws, subjecting themselves only to the potential for punishment. Would making street gangs illegal have any effect on street gangs? My guess is that it would amount to little more than official recognition, and would actually boost membership. Street cred, if you will.

Wayne LaPierre drew sharp criticism in the 90s for suggesting that the Clinton administration allowed violent crime to further its anti-gun agenda. They consistently passed more restrictive gun laws, then just as consistently failed to enforce them. What other conclusion may be drawn from such (in)action?

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