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With more states passing stronger gun control laws, rural sheriffs across the country are taking their role as defenders of the Constitution to a new level by protesting such restrictions and, in some cases, refusing to enforce the laws. Sheriff Mike Lewis considers himself the last man standing for the people of Wicomico County, Maryland. “State police and highway patrol get their orders from the governor,” the sheriff said. “I get my orders from the citizens in this county.”

Lewis and other like-minded sheriffs have been joined by groups like Oath Keepers and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, both of which encourage law enforcement officers to take a stand against gun control laws.

The role of a sheriff

While the position of sheriff is not found in the U.S. Constitution, it is listed in state constitutions. Nearly all of America’s 3,080 sheriffs are elected to their positions, whereas state and city police officials are appointed.

Lewis and other sheriffs, and their supporters, say that puts them in the best position to stand up to gun laws they consider unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms.

“The role of a sheriff is to be the interposer between the law and the citizen,” said Maryland Delegate Don Dwyer, an Anne Arundel County Republican. “He should stand between the government and citizen in every issue pertaining to the law.”

When Lewis was president of the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association, he testified with other sheriffs against the state’s Firearms Safety Act (FSA) before it was enacted in 2013. One of the strictest gun laws in the nation, the act requires gun applicants to supply fingerprints and complete training to obtain a handgun license online. It bans 45 types of firearms, limits magazines to 10 rounds and outlaws gun ownership for people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.

After Lewis opposed the bill, he said he was inundated with emails, handwritten letters, phone calls and visits from people thanking him for standing up for gun rights.

IMAGE: Sheriff Mike Lewis, Wicomico County, Md. SYDNEY STAVINOHA / NEWS21

“Why are we being penalized? Why are we being crucified because we’re standing up for our Second Amendment right? Why does everybody look at us like we’re right-wing nuts because we’re standing up for our constitutional rights?” —Sheriff Mike Lewis, Wicomico County, Maryland.

“I knew this was a local issue, but I also knew it had serious ramifications on the U.S. Constitution, specifically for our Second Amendment right,” said Lewis, one of 24 sheriffs in the state. “It ignited fire among sheriffs throughout the state. Those in the rural areas all felt the way I did.”

In New York, the state sheriff’s association has publicly decried portions of the SAFE Act, state legislation that broadened the definition of a banned assault weapon, outlawed magazines holding more than 10 rounds and created harsher punishments for anyone who kills a first-responder in the line of duty.

A handful of the state’s 62 sheriffs have vowed not to enforce the high-capacity magazine and assault-weapon bans. One of the most vocal is Sheriff Tony Desmond of Schoharie County, population 32,000. He believes his refusal to enforce the SAFE Act won him re-election in 2013.

“If you have an (assault) weapon, which under the SAFE Act is considered illegal, I don’t look at it as being illegal just because someone said it was,” he said.

Colorado made national headlines when 55 of its 62 sheriffs attempted to sign on as plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of several 2013 gun control bills in the state. The most-controversial measures banned magazines of more than 15 rounds and established background checks for private gun sales.

“It’s not (the judge’s) job to tell me what I can and can’t enforce.”

A federal judge said the sheriffs couldn’t sue as elected officials, so Weld County Sheriff John Cooke and eight other sheriffs sued as private citizens. Cooke was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, which a federal district judge threw out in June. He and other plaintiffs are preparing an appeal.

“It’s not (the judge’s) job to tell me what I can and can’t enforce,” Cooke said. “I’m still the one that has to say where do I put my priorities and resources? And it’s not going to be there.”

Lewis, who is running for re-election in Maryland this year, said sheriffs have a responsibility to push against what he sees as the federal government’s continual encroachment on citizens’ lives and rights.

“I made a vow and a commitment that as long as I’m the sheriff of this county I will not allow the federal government to come in here and strip my law-abiding citizens of the right to bear arms,” he said. “If they attempt to do that it will be an all-out civil war. Because I will stand toe-to-toe with my people.”

“It’s not up to a sheriff to decide what’s constitutional and what isn’t. That’s what our courts are for.”

But Maryland Sen. Brian Frosh, a sponsor of the Firearms Safety Act and a gun-control advocate from suburban Montgomery County, said Lewis’ understanding of a sheriff’s role is flawed.

“If you are a sheriff in Maryland you must take an oath to uphold the law and the Constitution,” said Frosh, now the Democratic nominee for Maryland attorney general. “… It’s not up to a sheriff to decide what’s constitutional and what isn’t. That’s what our courts are for.”

Frosh also noted that sheriffs are generally not lawyers or judges, which means they often are following their convictions instead of the Constitution.

IMAGE: Edward Amelio is a deputy sheriff in rural Lewis County, N.Y.EMILIE EATON / NEWS21

Edward Amelio, a deputy sheriff in rural Lewis County, New York, has to complete a lot of paperwork after responding to a call. Normally he only deals with guns when issuing an order of protection in which a judge orders someone’s firearm confiscated.

“We had lots of people come in (to testify against the bill) and without any basis say, ‘This violates the Second Amendment,’” Frosh said. “They can cite the Second Amendment, but they couldn’t explain why this violates it. And the simple fact is it does not. There is a provision of our Constitution that gives people rights with respect to firearms, but it’s not as expansive as many of these people think.”

Sheriffs do have the power to nullify, or ignore, a law if it is unconstitutional, Maryland Delegate Dwyer said. He said James Madison referred to nullification as the rightful remedy for the Constitution.

“The sheriffs coming to testify on the bill understood the issue enough and were brave enough to come to Annapolis and make the bold stand that on their watch, in their county, they would not enforce these laws even if they passed,” said Dwyer. “That is the true role and responsibility of what the sheriff is.”

Oath Keepers and CSPOA

If former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack had it his way, there wouldn’t be a single gun control law in the U.S.

“I studied what the Founding Fathers meant about the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, and the conclusion is inescapable,” said Mack, the founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA). “There’s no way around it. Gun control in America is against the law.”

Mack’s conviction is central to the ideology of CSPOA, which he founded in 2011 to “unite all public servants and sheriffs, to keep their word to uphold, defend, protect, preserve and obey” the Constitution, according to the association’s website.

CSPOA grabbed media attention in February with a growing list of sheriffs — 484 as of late July — professing opposition to federal gun control.

Image: Stewart Rhodes, founder and president of the pro gun rights organization Oath Keepers speaks  during a gun rights rallyJARED RAMSDELL / JOURNAL INQUIRER VIA AP, FILE

Stewart Rhodes, founder and president of the pro gun rights organization Oath Keepers speaks during a gun rights rally at the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford on April 20, 2013.

Mack and CSPOA also have ties to Oath Keepers, an organization founded in 2009 with a similar goal to unite veterans, law enforcement officers and first-responders who pledge to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

The website of the Oath Keepers, which has active chapters in 48 states and the District of Columbia, and an estimated membership of 40,000, features a declaration of “orders we will not obey,” including those to disarm Americans, impose martial law on a state and blockade cities.

“I want to have the image that I protect gun owners, but I’m not fanatical about it.”

Some sheriffs perceive Oath Keepers and CSPOA as too radical to associate with. Desmond, of Schoharie County, New York, is known around his state for openly not enforcing provisions of the SAFE Act that he considers unconstitutional. Still, he’s not a member of either organization.

“I don’t want to get involved with somebody that may be a bit more proactive when it comes to the SAFE Act,” Desmond said. “I want to have the image that I protect gun owners, but I’m not fanatical about it.”

Mack is familiar with that sentiment. He suspects it’s hindered the growth of CSPOA.

“This is such a new idea for so many sheriffs that it’s hard for them to swallow it,” Mack said. “They’ve fallen into the brainwashing and the mainstream ideas that you just have to go after the drug dealers and the DUIs and serve court papers — and that the federal government is the supreme law of the land.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights nonprofit that classifies and combats hate and extremist groups, included both CSPOA and Oath Keepers on its list of 1,096 anti-government “patriot” groups active in 2013. Both groups have faced criticism for their alleged connections to accused criminals, including individuals charged with possessing a live napalm bomb and a suspect in theshooting and killing of two Las Vegas police officers and a bystander in June.

Representatives from the law center did not return phone calls and emails requesting comment.

Related

Armed, Out and About: Evolving Public-Carry Laws Expand Gun Rights

Gun Purchase Background Checks: Casting a Wide Net, With Many Holes

See the Entire News21 Project: GUN WARS: The Struggle Over Rights and Regulation in America

Franklin Shook, an Oath Keepers board member who goes by the pseudonym “Elias Alias,” said the organization doesn’t promote violence, but rather a message of peaceful noncompliance.

“What Oath Keepers is saying is … when you get an order to go to somebody’s house and collect one of these guns, just stand down,” Shook said. “Say peacefully, ‘I refuse to carry out an unlawful order,’ and we, the organization, will do everything in our power to keep public pressure on your side to keep you from getting in trouble for standing down. That makes Oath Keepers extremely dangerous to the system.”

Self-proclaimed constitutional sheriffs hope that courts will overturn gun control measures in their states — but they recognize that may not happen. Lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of gun control legislation in Maryland, New York and Colorado have been, for the most part, unsuccessful.

Follow NBC News Investigations on Twitter and Facebook.

“My hope is that the governor will look at it now that it’s been a year plus and say, ‘We’ve had some provisions that have failed. Let’s sit down and look at this and have a meaningful conversation,’” said Otsego County, New York, Sheriff Richard Devlin, who enforces the SAFE Act but doesn’t make it a priority. “I personally don’t see that happening, but I’d like to see that happen.”

Emilie Eaton is a News21 Hearst Fellow. Jacy Marmaduke is a News21 Peter Kiewet Fellow. Sydney Stavinoha is an Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation News21 Fellow.

This report is part of a project on gun rights and regulations in America produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 program.

h/t: Marlena Chertock, Emilie Eaton, Jacy Maramduke, and Sydney Stavinoha at NBC News, via News21

h/t: Alexander Zaitchik at Rolling Stone

Kudos to Lake Ozark, Missouri, 

h/t: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress Justice

Right-wing douchebag extremists at Twitchy smear OneRepublic for accurately telling the truth about the real number of school shootings since Sandy Hook, which is currently 74.


cc: thepoliticalfreakshow, mediamattersforamerica

thepoliticalfreakshow:

Yet another massacre occurred last night at an institution of learning, this time the University of California, Santa Barbara. The price we paid for the National Rifle Association’s “freedom” was seven people murdered and seven injured at nine different crime scenes.

A young man who Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown called “severely mentally disturbed” drove by various student hangouts to commit an act of “premeditated mass murder” apparently—according to videos posted to YouTube and threats made to women on campus—due to his anger at being “rejected” by women on campus.

The NRA wants less information and more Santa Barbaras.

Of course, this is all too familiar: a young aggrieved male, mentally disturbed, threatening others—especially women—but still able to get his hands on a high-capacity magazine of the variety used in so many other mass murders. This doesn’t happen in any other high income country with the regularity it does here; in fact, it almost never happens in any of them.

But here, in the good ole US of A, we’ve allowed a group of rich, entitled thugs who run an operation fronting for arms dealers—guys who represent a minority position on pretty much every issue having to do with reasonable regulation of firearms even among gun owners—to dictate our policies to cowardly, careerist politicians.

I already hear the outrage from the right: how can you blame the NRA? We need good guys to have guns, we have to stop the “haters” and “knockout gamers” and … I can’t even bear to repeat the infantile and inane talking points coming from cynical and callous people like the NRA’s Executive Vice President and foaming mouthpiece Wayne LaPierre.

We know how to stop these incidents, or at least greatly reduce them. We’ve seen other countries do it, such as Australia, which was averaging one of these massacres a year until their infamous Port Arthur Massacre in 1996. After which they completely overhauled their gun laws. Since then, a country with the same frontier history as the United States has not experienced one mass shooting. Not one. Their homicides and suicides have also precipitously dropped.

We, of course, could learn even more about how to stop these mass killings, as well as the everyday homicides, suicides and accidental killings that rob this nation of our youth, and everything they could have ever been. But this past week we’ve had numerous examples of how the NRA does their best to block this from happening, because they will gladly accept mass murder in Santa Barbara and Newtown, as well as an accidental bystander shooting in a neighborhood near you, if it keeps the dollars floating into their pockets from the ultimate blood-drenched 1%ers who own various staples of the gun industry

After attending the NRA’s Convention in Indianapolis, I wrote recently in these pages about all the NRA does to encourage paranoia and hatred while selling the weaponry not of self protection or hunting, but war, to anyone with a stack of bills and a glint in their eye.

But this past week we’ve seen the other side of the coin. How the NRA works to suppress information that would lead to treating a public health catastrophe that claims over 30,000 lives per year and injures over 100,000 as that very thing, while fighting to ensure we have as little access to information as possible that might help save lives.

The simple fact is, much like with their friends on the right from the tobacco industry to the oil industry to the megachurch, science and information are the enemies of the NRA. They have proven they will do whatever it takes to make sure we have less of it, and more Santa Barbaras.

The clearest example, of course, is the NRA’s labeling a bill sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) to allow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to once again use its considerable expertise to research gun violence prevention, “unethical.” Yes, they actually said that.

Because anyone who does statistically significant research on a public health problem from the angle of helping people and not profiting from misery, and again and again finds obvious truths such as owning guns makes you more likely to get shot, is not someone the NRA and its allies will countenance without smearing. I debated one of these types from the Second Amendment Foundation on NPR recently regarding the CDC. It is amazing how tongue-tied they get when you present them with irrefutable information.

As for the “unethical” attack, mind you, this comes from an organization that promotes the “work” of well-traveled right-wing welfare recipient John Lott, a clown and a fraud who has created studies lacking any statistical validityhas “lost” his research when asked to produce it, and actually got busted for creating a fake online persona—Mary Rosh—to show up in comments sections where he wrote articles to say how swell and dreamy he was as a professor. Unethical (and embarrassing), indeed.

As Rep. Maloney rightly put it, “In America, gun violence kills twice as many children as cancer, and yet political grandstanding has halted funding for public health research to understand this crisis.”

The NRA’s fight to suppress information couldn’t be more apparent than it is in a rather pathetically titled column in Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller this past Friday. (Side note: As the NRA usually shuts up for at least 72 hours after a shooting, lest they remind people of their position as an accessory, having their views aired mere hours before this latest tragedy is enlightening).

The piece, written by chief NRA lobbyist and super-shill Chris Cox, was actually named, “We Love Our Moms and Trust Our Doctors, But We Still Don’t Want Gun Control.” Yes, we’re at the point where one of the top officials in the NRA feels the need to point out he has warm feelings for those who give life and those who save lives.

The reason for this, as he points out in his piece, is that he and his fellow street-war profiteers are fighting to block President Obama’s U.S. Surgeon General Nominee Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, from being appointed. What was his crime? He has been honest about guns being a public health problem, and has made the common sense recommendation that civilians not be allowed to own military weaponry.

The NRA is worried that, like with smoking in the past, if we have a Surgeon General who tells the truth, they will see their profits plummet. In fact, they’re not even trying to hide this fact (or doing a really, really bad job), as reported by Politico:

[Murthy’s] strongly backed by several health constituencies, such as public health advocates, research organizations and physician groups. Yet the NRA, as well as some Republicans, say past Murthy statements in support of gun control indicate that he could use the surgeon general job to promote anti-gun policies. Murthy has stated that he would not focus on gun violence in the position.

Cox attacks Moms Demand Action in this piece too, because Shannon Watts and her group have also used available information in the age of social media—in this case photos of lunatics open-carrying long guns in family establishments and intimidating customers—to get Chipotle to tell the gun fondlers they don’t want them bringing their weapons in their stores. And now Chili’s and other eateries are considering taking similar action.

Also this past week, the House’s answer to untreated rabies, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), attempted to force more guns on military institutions that don’t want them. Once again, we were forced to look at the NRA’s enemy: actual information—some of it bravely provided by top military brass both active and retired,standing up to the lies of the NRA and its allies.

Retired Brigadier General Stephen N. Xenakis, M.D., even took the step of authoring a strongly worded letter to Congress, which laid out his thinking as follows:

As someone who has had to make the tough decisions about how best to manage service members under my command, I urge you to oppose Mr. Gohmert’s Amendment. This amendment will only cause more stress, confusion, and danger on military bases.

Later that night, Gohmert went to the House floor, defeated, and pulled his amendment.

Sadly for the NRA, we are in the Information Age, and the truth is starting to regularly get past their efforts to thwart it. But sadly for the rest of us—and at this moment, most tragically, the victims at Santa Barbara—the NRA have been so successful at bullying, threatening and obfuscating for so long, that we likely have too many more UC Santa Barbaras to come.

Source: Cliff Schecter for The Daily Beast

h/t: Mark Follman at Mother Jones 

Everytown for Gun Safety has released a report titled Not Your Grandparents’ NRA that highlights a simple fact: the NRA that was created after the Civil War to promote hunting, marksmanship, and safety training — and that supported common sense gun laws — no longer exists. Today’s NRA would be unrecognizable to the founding members of the organization.

Today’s radicalized NRA was born in 1977 when its newly elected leader Harlon Carter rejected calls for background checks, saying that allowing “convicted violent felons, mentally deranged people, violently addicted to narcotics people to have guns” was simply the “price we pay for freedom.”

The report highlights some of the extreme positions the NRA has taken and some of the tactics it uses to subvert public safety and advance its agenda, including:

  • Fighting to allow felons and terrorists to buy and own firearms;
  • Campaigning to put guns in places like bars where they are at high risk of being misused, despite the documented dangers of mixing guns and alcohol;
  • Promoting gag orders to block pediatricians and military commanders from discussing gun safety with parents and at-risk service members;
  • Endangering law enforcement and hobbling their efforts to fight gun crime by sabotaging the introduction of proven, innovative gun-tracking technology;
  • Handcuffing communities beset by gun violence by thwarting their efforts to tailor gun laws to local conditions; and, finally,
  • Blacklisting individuals and private sector companies that buck NRA orthodoxy or offer any measures to reduce gun violence or mitigate its costs.

Click here to read the full report.

The 1977 Cincinnati NRA convention is responsible for the major shift in the direction of the organization, as was the rise of deranged idiot Wayne LaPierre. 

h/t: Everytown For Gun Safety

h/t: Mollie Reilly at HuffPost Politics

h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW 

The NRA is a hostage-taking organization harming our country, and their goal of denying Dr. Vivek Murthy’s appointment as next Surgeon General.   

h/t: Sy Mukherjee at Think Progress Health

thepoliticalfreakshow:

Chicago’s strictest-in-the-nation law banning gun sales within the city is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Monday.

The judge said the law banning the weapons sale “goes too far,” but delayed the effect of the ruling to give the city time to respond, Bloomberg reported.

“Chicago’s ordinance goes too far in outright banning legal buyers and legal dealers from engaging in lawful acquisitions and lawful sales of firearms,” U.S. District Court Judge Edmond E. Chang wrote in a 35-page opinion.

The ordinance, which has banned gun shops in Chicago since it was passed by the city council in 2010, also prohibits gun owners from stepping outside their homes with a handgun — even into their garages or onto their porches.

Chicago previously banned handguns in the city for 28 years until 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law.

The city, President Obama’s hometown, has struggled with gun violence and ended 2013 with 415 homicides, 88 fewer than in 2012 and 20 fewer than in 2011, according to an Associated Press tally. It was the fewest killings in the city since 1965.

Guess which Conservative pundit just got a book deal? If you guessed the St. Louis-based radio talk show host Dana Loesch, you are right on the money.

Her first book, Defenseless, which will be published in September 2014, examines the issues of the 2nd Amendment and gun ownership rights from a slanted pro-NRA viewpoint with flagrant distortions.


Center Street on Loesch’s book:

In Defenseless, Loesch examines the motivations of the political left to grab the guns of law-abiding citizens, leaving vulnerable millions of Americans, especially women. She digs deep into the history of the Second Amendment, looking closely at the advantage a no-guns policy would give to murderers, rapists, and other criminals. She urges readers to fight back against what she sees as a hypocritical and unwarranted federal intrusion by policymakers who themselves rely on guns for their protection. The always provocative Loesch – who was once banned from CNN’s Piers Morgan for her support of self-defense — will present new reporting and offer surprising insights about gun control, while also offering a plan for reclaiming our rights and the security necessary for our peace of mind.  
The book will publish in September 2014 and will be released simultaneously in hardcover and eBook formats. 

Oh boy. Loesch’s going for the crazy gold here.

(cross-posted from DanaBusted.blogspot.com)