The Fresno Bee recently published an editorial response to Margaret Mims’ involvement in the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA): “Constitutional Sheriffs’ in Calif. Abuse their Positions.” There are, as of the publishing of this blog, over 150 comments on The Bee’s editorial ranging from “more power to them [the Sheriffs]” to “anti-gun laws are violating my civil rights” to a slough of slippery-slope, strawman, and ad hominem, argumentative responses that typically pervade “comments” sections on the Internet (which is why I’ve decided to publish my personal response on my own blog). If any of those commentators happen to make their way to The Snow of the Universe, I hope one thing they’ll take away from this response is that calling someone a “liberal” or a “conservative” does not automatically and intrinsically invalidate their argument (assuming they made an argument, of course).
I agree that there are a variety of problematic issues going on here; in addition, I think the point of the article is a bit more subtle than problems with “upholding the Constitution” and the patriotism of law enforcement and peace officers—the author points out that the danger of the “Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association,” an association of which Sheriff Mims is a member, is that Sheriffs are spouting out rhetoric saying that they are going to begin upholding laws that fit their ideology (and not upholding laws that conflict with their ideology). The is problematic because it is actually contrary to upholding the Constitution. Regardless of what that ideology is, our three-branch government prohibits law enforcement and peace offers from interpreting and applying laws as THEY see fit. That’s the judicial branch’s job. I’d be endlessly apprehensive about a state in which law enforcement officers get to interpret the laws and apply them however they want based on their own ideologies, and as a former police academy cadet and proactive citizen, I feel quite strongly about this point while continuing to have the utmost respect for all peace officers and law enforcement agents. But if we don’t a police state, we definitely don’t want to go here.
I know that many of us—as a gun owner, myself included—are sensitive about gun control / gun freedom policy, so I’m reticent to continue using the article’s example, but it is a prudent example: so say, for example, stricter gun laws at either the state or federal level are put in to place, and there’s growing sentiment among certain segments of the people and peace officers that those laws are “unconstitutional” for whatever reason. That’s all well and fine, but it is not at the privilege of law enforcement agencies to do what they please with those laws according to their personal ideologies and how they interpret the Constitution. It would be an endlessly more serious breach of constitutional law for one branch of government appropriating the tasks of another branch (in this case, the executive branch appropriating the responsibilities of the judicial branch).
It would, in fact, undermine the entire checks and balances system. I believe what the article fails to clearly articulate is that the “abuse” of “[Sheriff’s] position[s]” is that the rhetoric is damaging and undermining to the checks and balances system that is hard-coded into the Constitution.
This isn’t to say that the people have to wait on the judicial branch though. If the people have a problem with policy, then they need to interact with Congress or the State Legislature—the lawmakers—by writing, calling, and voting.