Mark Glennon over at Wirepoints has a great op-ed about Illinois sheriffs who have boldly told the governor and the General Assembly where they can stick their new gun ban law. Here’s a teaser… it’s well worth reading the whole thing here.
Can law enforcement officers decline to enforce laws they believe are unconstitutional while they wait for clear answers from the courts?
These are sad times for us who’ve long believed that it’s axiomatic that they can – and should in the right circumstances. A viewpoint is now being widely expressed to the effect that the Constitution should be of no consequence to law enforcement – that police must blindly enforce whatever is legislated.
That simplistic opinion is being stated openly and often in the controversy over refusal by at least 74 of Illinois’ 102 county sheriffs to enforce parts of the state’s new ban on certain semiautomatic weapons.
Those holding that opinion are defying the supremacy of the Constitution and are saying, in effect, that “just following orders” should be the sheriffs’ mentality. That’s a mentality one would hope had been confined to the dustbin of legal and ethical history.
Let’s first be clear that this should not be about whether you think the new law is wise or unwise or whether you think courts should find that it’s constitutional.
Instead, this is about how blithely so many sheriffs’ critics are dismissing the obligation of law enforcement to consider the constitutionality of laws they are asked to enforce. There’s more at issue here than Illinois’ new gun law. Reasonable minds can differ about exactly where the lines should be drawn, discussed below, but it’s disappointing to see so many officeholders, media commentators and legal analysts endorsing a dangerous rule that so flippantly ignores the exceptions to when police can, and should, decline to enforce the law.
So these people who demand sheriffs enforce this unconstitutional gun control law “because it’s the law” so often also demand law enforcement ignore illegal aliens violating federal immigration law. Put more simply, these people want law enforcement to use the ala carte plan for picking and choosing which laws to enforce and which to ignore to suit their political ideology.
Our parents and grandparents no doubt remember the dark days of the Civil Rights era when some politicians and some everyday Americans resisted the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education which ended – or at least attempted to end – school segregation.
Some governors and some state legislators were very opposed to the idea of integrated classrooms where whites and blacks would go to school alongside one another. Those officials ignored the rule of law and Supreme Court precedent to perpetuate their bigoted beliefs.
Today we see much the same in a governor and legislative leaders who ignore the rule of law and SCOTUS precedent to pass a sweeping gun and magazine ban.
And these same people criticize sheriffs for upholding the Constitution, their oaths of office and the rule of law when it comes to unconstitutional gun bans.
Shame on them.