4 sheriffs join suit against new gun laws

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“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. 

Those familiar with our Supreme Court’s inconsistent and incoherent interpretations of the Second Amendment should commend Sheriff Stan Hilkey, et al., for joining in the constitutional challenge to Colorado’s recently enacted “gun laws” – particularly when they are doing so at minimal taxpayer expense (assuming that Attorney General John Suthers diligently defends the statutes’ constitutionality).

As public officials sworn to uphold our Constitution, county sheriffs are entitled to an unambiguous determination of “what the law is”.  As elected officials answerable to voters, they are understandably inclined to reflect the views of their supporters.  As law enforcement officers, the public relations benefit of the Sheriffs’ participation may help their subordinates avoid confrontations with constituents armed with assault rifles.

In Heller, Justice Scalia effectively erased the “prefatory clause” from the Founders’ text by giving it no practical effect.  Nevertheless, the Second Amendment is totally silent about the government’s authority to regulate the design, manufacture, and sale of “arms” in interstate commerce and does not limit its power to tax them under Article I, Section 8.

Likewise, while the Second Amendment guarantees most citizens the right to “keep and bear arms” (at least for self-defense), nothing therein constrains governmental power to “regulate” how such “arms” are acquired.  Therefore, impliedly, just as the government could order all “able bodied men” capable of serving in a “militia” to obtain specified weapons, it could also tax those sales, require their registration, confiscate weapons from tax avoiders, and/or prohibit criminals, slaves, and the insane from acquiring them.

Hopefully, by resolving ambiguities in Second Amendment jurisprudence, the Sheriffs’ lawsuit will contribute a valuable public service – but not achieve the result they desire.

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