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In Defiance of State Law: Idaho Sheriff Promises to Keep Enforcing Federal Gun Control

State law enforcement officials like Sheriff Gary Raney of Ada County are in drastic need of a reeducation lesson on anti-commandeering, the Constitution, and the Second Amendment.

Raney, the president of the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association (ISA), has openly declared he will enforce federal gun laws restricting the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms in his county in spite of a new state law banning him from doing so.

Earlier this year the Idaho state Legislature unanimously passed the Idaho Federal Firearm, Magazine and Register Ban Enforcement Act, which makes it a misdemeanor for a state law enforcement officer to enforce new federal firearms restrictions.

Fortunately, the majority of the ISA seems to understand this, as nearly all of Idaho’s 44 county sheriffs have voiced their support for the law.

In a Jan. 25 2013 op-ed column for the Idaho Statesman, Raney acknowledged people’s right to keep and bear arms as articulated in the Second Amendment, yet went on to say that somehow the Supremacy Clause in the Constitution requires states to enforce federal laws, even if they violate those rights.

“So, despite the fact that I personally oppose some of the gun control measures currently under consideration, my oath requires me to uphold the laws that are passed by our federal and state representatives,” he wrote.

This represents a profoundly ignorant – or disingenuous – interpretation of both the Constitution and anti-commandeering.

First, it is beyond absurd to interpret the Supremacy Clause as giving Congress the power to pass any law it wants, even if they blatantly violate our liberties. If this were true, then what would be the purpose of the Bill of Rights, or listing congressional powers in Article I?

All federal laws have to conform to the limited powers delegated to them by the states through the Constitution. All other powers reside in the states, or the people. This is why the Supremacy Clause contains the phrase “made in pursuance thereof (the Constitution)” when referring to federal laws acting as supreme law of the land.

Nowhere is Congress given the enumerated power to restrict our right to bear arms, and the Second Amendment explicitly prohibits any restrictions.

What part of this does Raney not understand?

Secondly, no state law enforcement official is legally bound to uphold federal laws. Their duty is to enforce state laws, and Idaho state law says officials like Raney cannot enforce federal gun laws.

Even the Supreme Court is against him on this, having repeatedly ruled states are not required by the Constitution to enforce federal laws. Two recent cases include Independent Business v. Sebelius and Printz v. US.

If Raney decides to enforce federal gun laws that violate the rights of Ada County citizens to keep and bear arms, in contradiction of Idaho state law, it will not be out of a sense of duty to the Constitution he swore to uphold, which he will in fact be violating. It will be because he prefers to act as an agent for the federal government, rather than the citizens of Ada County who put him into office.

Such behavior is a betrayal of his duty to resist unconstitutional federal laws as described by James Madison in the Virginia Resolution of 1798.

Here endeth the lesson.