Recently, I wrote a letter to all citizens of Skamania County stating my position with regards to any infringement on your second amendment right to keep and bear arms. Since that letter was posted to the Sheriff’s Office website, and published in local newspapers, some questions have been posed to me.
Q. Why do you feel you have the right to pick and choose which laws you will enforce?
A. Each day, law enforcement is faced with making a judgment as to how to appropriately apply the laws established by the legislature of Washington State. While the authority exists to enforce all laws, many times a deputy may judge that the appropriate course of action does not conclude with an arrest or citation. This common sense, judgment-based action has proven effective over the centuries and continues to be a normal practice today. In some cases, certain enforcement action has been mandated by the legislature and in those cases, where no individual judgment can be made, the mandated action is taken.
Q. Are you telling us you will refuse to enforce federal law?
A. The Sheriff is duly elected by the registered voters of the county in the State of Washington. They are charged with upholding the laws of the State of Washington, and defending the Constitution of both the United States and the State of Washington. We have no authority to enforce federal laws. All enforcement of federal laws must be carried out by federal law enforcement officers.
Q. Why do feel you have the authority to interpret the 2nd Amendment?
A. I do not believe that I have any authority to interpret either the U.S. Constitution or the Washington State Constitution. I do, however, believe I have an obligation to follow the law.
In 2008, the United States Supreme Court held, in the case of District of Columbia vs. Heller, that the 2nd amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects an individual right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense within a home and within a federal enclave. Although this case did not address the right to keep and bear arms outside of Washington D.C. that question was answered two years later.
In 2010, the case of McDonald vs. Chicago was the first case in United States Supreme Court history that affirmed an individual right to keep and bear arms for self defense. This ruling expanded the 2008 ruling to areas outside the enclave of Washington D.C., in other words, the individual States.
The United States Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land. I swore an oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme court is charged with interpreting the validity of law as it applies to the U.S. constitution. Therefore, as a result of the affirmation by the court in both cases listed above, I frame the foundation for my position that; “I intend to defend the constitution against any act that is deemed a threat to your right to keep and bear arms.”
In 1996, in the case of Mack/Printz vs. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the certain interim provisions of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act commanding the “Chief Law Enforcement Officer” of each local jurisdiction to conduct background checks was unconstitutional. Essentially, it was an attempt to require local law enforcement to do the work of the federal government. This was deemed to be a violation of the 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Should new proposals of law by congress seek to mandate the Sheriff to implement procedures for registration or other recording requirements, I would view this as a mandate, contrary to the ruling of the U.S. Supreme court in Mack/Printz vs. U.S. Subsequently, I feel compelled to argue against any such proposed law that seeks to allow the federal government the authority to draft the police powers of the 50 states into its service.
My position on these issues is based in law. Until such time that the U.S. Supreme Court issues decisions contrary to those already affirmed, I believe I am both mandated and obligated, under oath, to defend the individual rights as enumerated under the U.S. Constitution.
Dave Brown, Sheriff