Grandstanding for gun rights
The bit of political theater the Mesa County commissioners staged Monday — before a packed and cheering audience — was a way for the commissioners to tell gun-rights advocates that the county leaders support those pro-gun views.
Beyond that, the resolution adopted Monday has no practical effect. The commissioners were shooting blanks.
They’re not alone. City and county officials in other parts of the state, including Montrose, and around the country have engaged in similar acts of political grandstanding. That doesn’t make them any more meaningful.
None of this is to say the commissioners should simply ignore what’s going on in Denver and Washington, D.C., with respect to gun laws. Although their first responsibility is to the business of the county, they have every right to voice their concerns about particular proposals they believe are inimical to this county and to their constituents.
Furthermore, there’s no question a large segment of Mesa County’s population is very worried about the gun laws being proposed in Washington and Denver. The commissioners have good reason to state their opposition to those measures and to encourage elected representatives to vote against them.
But the resolution passed Monday is inappropriate and toothless in several respects. It reads, in part, that the county “will not enforce any unlawful and unconstitutional statutes, executive orders or other regulations ...”
The first problem is: Who gets to decide what is and isn’t constitutional? It’s certainly not three elected commissioners or individual citizens. Several decades ago, elected officials and citizens in the South attempted to impose their own definition of constitutionality regarding civil rights laws. They lost, time and again, in the courts. It’s the rule of law that applies, not political rhetoric.
Similarly, courts have ruled local entities can’t arbitrarily develop their own immigration rules in conflict with federal law.
Moreover, we have a judical system that works in this regard, even if it can be painfully slow. The Second Amendment is arguably stronger now than it has been in many years, thanks to two recent Supreme Court decisions on gun ownership.
And the president’s executive authority on certain matters not related to guns has been notably reined in by a recent federal appeals court ruling. It’s a safe bet that any legislation or executive order of questionable constitutionality will be challenged in court by the NRA and other gun groups.
The county resolution is also of little value because it’s not the county commissioners who enforce state or federal laws. State laws are enforced by the elected county sheriff and the elected district attorney, neither of whom answers to the county commissioners on law enforcement matters.
Federal gun laws are enforced and prosecuted primarily by federal authorities.
The commissioners’ resolution does serve one function, however. It feeds the already pervasive hysteria that the federal government is on the verge of confiscating guns, though that is not the case. That hysteria, in turn, leads to more gun and ammunition purchases and larger profits for gun manufacturers.
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