I tend to agree with Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith on the single issue of firearms. He’s an outspoken advocate for gun rights and a passionate critic of gun control attempts. Whether you agree with me on that issue is mostly irrelevant and I accept that many of you don’t see the issue the same way.
The reason I bring this up, is Sheriff Smith’s understanding of American history, Supreme Court precedent, Constitutional law, his own responsibilities and apparently his own statements, are about to be on display for the country and Justin is going to go down in flames solely due to willful ignorance.
In case you hadn’t heard, Sheriff Smith, as lead plaintiff, and sheriffs from three other states filed suit in federal court this week, requesting Amendment 64’s repeal.
Check out some of these statements made by the sheriff to the press since news broke of the lawsuit:
“Colorado is “asking every peace officer to violate their oath,” Smith said. “What we’re being forced to do … makes me ineligible for office. Which constitution are we supposed to uphold?’”
“I always tell people, take marijuana out of it and put anything else in there, and look at the constitutional issue of, ‘are we going to continue with the principle of federal supremacy?’”
“We’re to protect the rights of individuals in our state,” Smith said. “… By defending the right of those individuals (to possess and consume marijuana), it means violating federal law.”
“I look at being a sheriff and what I do,” Smith told The Cannabist today from Washington D.C., where a press conference was held to announce the lawsuit, “it’s not a popularity contest. As someone who’s been a law enforcement officer for going on three decades now, you can’t just go with what’s popular …. This is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. What part of my oath do I violate? I need a judge in a courtroom to make a decision on it, because I know of no other place where I’m told to violate a federal law.”
“My concern is this is a disintegration of the republic.”
So, why is he going to lose? Precedent, in general and in undeniably relevant precedent of which I’m certain Sheriff Smith is aware. Printz v. United States was a case heard by the Supreme Court in 1997.
“The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Brady Bill) required “local chief law enforcement officers” (CLEOs) to perform background-checks on prospective handgun purchasers, until such time as the Attorney General establishes a federal system for this purpose. County sheriffs Jay Printz and Richard Mack, separately challenged the constitutionality of this interim provision of the Brady Bill on behalf of CLEOs in Montana and Arizona respectively. In both cases District Courts found the background-checks unconstitutional, but ruled that since this requirement was severable from the rest of the Brady Bill a voluntary background-check system could remain. On appeal from the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that the interim background-check provisions were constitutional, the Supreme Court granted certiorari and consolidated the two cases deciding this one along with Mack v. United States.”
What was the SCOTUS ruling?
By a 5-4 vote, SCOTUS ruled in favor of Printz and Mack, vacating the challenged provisions of the Brady Bill.
And what was the outcome?
Local law enforcement, specifically CLEOs, have no Constitutional or statutory obligation to enforce federal laws.
Did you catch that? SCOTUS made a ruling in favor of two western sheriffs suing the federal government regarding a federal firearms law. And we’re supposed to believe Justin Smith, literally the poster sheriff for gun rights, isn’t familiar with Printz v. United States? Bullshit.
To quote Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion:
“The Court today properly holds that the Brady Act violates the Tenth Amendment in that it compels state law enforcement officers to “administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.” See ante, at 25. Although I join the Court’s opinion in full, I write separately to emphasize that the Tenth Amendment affirms the undeniable notion that under our Constitution, the Federal Government is one of enumerated, hence limited, powers.”
Read the full text here.
Read Justin’s own Facebook status from January 19th of this year,
“Preserving freedom and liberty, a two step plan:
If you polled the American people on whether they want more federal government intervention and control in their lives, the answer would be a resounding no. (In Colorado, there might be a couple of strong expletives included in that no as well.)
The power brokers in Washington DC know that too. But, that fact doesn’t curb their appetite for more power and control over the daily activities of everyday Americans. Their desire for power and control hasn’t changed, but I believe their tactics for attaining it have. Don’t exxpect (sic) them to propose these power grabs in view of the people, they are much more calculating than that.
There are two strategies that can be employed to protect the American people from the continued federal encroachment on our daily lives.
The first and best roadblock to increased federal power is stronger state and local government.”
At this point in reading the status the euphoric sensation brought on with knowing your adversary had dug his own grave set in, as I realized the Sheriff’s voluntary, unsolicited, lawsuit was nearly entirely undermined by the voluntary, unsolicited, comments of the Sheriff himself.
I don’t mind the fact the Larimer County Sheriff is an out-and-out conservative in lockstep with the national Republican Party. I didn’t vote for him and I’m unlikely to in the future.
I don’t object to the fact Justin has his own ignorant prejudices of marijuana; he’s been a professional law enforcement officer his entire adult life and government employment tends to deter employees from questioning institutional knowledge. He’s a frog in boiling water.
But here’s the problem I have and the problem I think needs to be better publicized, Justin is a hypocrite.
“Typically, government that is closer to the people is more accountable to the people and is therefore likely more trusted and supported by the people.
Let me suggest that any time you hear the high priests of federal power undermine state and local governments, you should be highly suspicious. I can guarantee you that once they’ve sufficiently weakened the stature of state and local governments, these high priests of federal power will fill that void with the new federal “solutions.””
Unfortunately for Justin’s integrity, 54.6% of the people in his own county voted in support of Amendment 64, so now he has to explain why he’s not accountable to his own voters as the most powerful elected executive government representative in Larimer County and why he’s not familiar with a SCOTUS ruling which sided in favor of a pro-gun rights county sheriff.
Then there’s the fiscal responsibility and transparency argument from Sheriff Smith:
“Second, we routinely hear the complaint that we need to get the money out of politics (ie political campaigns), with the explanation that money buys influence. Who isn’t for a level playing field?
However, I suggest we turn that assertion upside down and look not simply at the money going into politics, but instead the money coming from politicians- in the way of massive government spending.
Is that not influence peddling in it’s (sic) rawest form?”
Yes, it most definitely is. Sort of like applying for and receiving Department of Defense surplus military equipment under Program 1033 (a law enacted the same year Printz was decided, ironically enough). $2.8 million in equipment went to Larimer and Weld County law enforcement agencies in the last nine years.
Do you think that kind of funding and equipment might influence how a budget-strapped sheriff or police chief views federal laws? How about the money expended by the onerous and failed drug war?
“The biggest threat that exists today in our system of government is the federal government’s ability to endlessly spend borrowed money. While state and local governments are rarely, if ever, allowed to spend money they don’t have, Washington burns through borrowed money, like a 3 year old through chocolate cake!
In the end, the two most important strategies to checking federal power and control are to maintain and support accountable and strong state and local governments and to end Washington’s endless ability to spend borrowed money to buy enfluence (sic).
I believe that is the roadmap to preserving our nation.”
$51 billion a year goes to the drug war. The most expensive domestic law enforcement program in history, and it hasn’t accomplished a single positive goal. It has swelled law enforcement budgets, empowered organized crime, filled our prisons and worsened relations between law enforcement and minorities.
And Sheriff Smith, fiscal conservative, wants to keep it going out of concern for the rule of law. Are we really to believe this is his goal in spite of Supreme Court precedent, common sense, the will of his own voters and his own expressed views?
I’ve never been high enough to believe that.