Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

February 3, 2013

Resistance

How can they say they won’t enforce the law?

An Associated Press account last week reported that a few West Virginia sheriffs have said they will not enforce “any new federal laws that they believe violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.”

Some of our readers may well want to know, “How can they do that and get away with it?”

The sheriffs are not alone in their resistance. Some governors and state representatives have said the same thing.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has asked his state legislature to make it illegal to enforce any executive order by the president that violates the Constitution.

Wyoming’s legislature is considering a bill that would make any federal limitation on guns unenforceable in that state, while specifying that federal agents who try to enforce such restrictions are committing a state felony.

Our purpose here is not to argue the merit of such positions, but to offer a possible explanation to those who may reasonably ask, “But isn’t the job of the sheriff to enforce and uphold the law?”

It may seem a matter of semantics, but the oath  taken by sheriffs and other public officials in West Virginia and elsewhere requires them to support the constitutions of both the United States and their state, and to faithfully discharge the duties of office. The oath taken by the President of the United States is similar, and includes this: “will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

While they swear (or affirm) to support and defend the Constitution, nothing is said about enforcing or upholding the law — which, like anything else, is always subject to change ... or the whims of legislators.

Remember, though, that this is America. We, the People, have options open to us that many others around the world do not have.

Every few years at election time, one such option allows us to remove those officials whose idea of how to discharge their duties doesn’t live up to our standards, or to continue them in office if we agree with the way they do it.

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