Some New York sheriffs are trying their best to fight the state’s gun control measures, but governor Cuomo said he wants them to shut up and fall in line. The Sheriff’s Association has joined with the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association in a lawsuit on constitutional grounds. Cuomo has countered their vows not to enforce the state’s latest anti-gun measures by inviting them to a briefing in which he told them to be quiet.
According to Albany’s Times Union,
The sheriffs thought they were being summoned to the Capitol to discuss ideas for changes to New York’s gun control law, the SAFE Act. Instead, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told them to keep quiet.
Opposition to the new law has simmered in upstate areas since Cuomo signed the law in January. Many county sheriffs oppose it, particularly its expanded definition of banned assault weapons, and have spoken out around the state. In January, the New York State Sheriffs’ Association wrote Cuomo with an analysis, and later suggested tweaks.
Cuomo invited its leaders to the Capitol last month, people briefed on the meeting said. The group included Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Peter Kehoe and Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss.
“We didn’t get a response (to the analysis) from him, but we could tell after the budget was passed that none of those recommendations were taken into consideration,” Moss said. “When we got there, we never got to the contents of the letter.”
Instead, Cuomo pushed the sheriffs to stop publicly speaking out against the act, Moss said.
“The governor was of the opinion that the sheriffs around the state should not be interjecting their personal opinions in reference to the law,” Moss said, adding that Cuomo said sheriffs can’t do that and enforce the law.
This is a classic case of the lesser magistrate resisting a higher level of government. When a civil government official passes laws, especially under suspect conditions, against the will of a large constituency of the people he allegedly represents, it eventually comes time to acknowledge that such an official is a tyrant and no longer faithfully represents that section of the constituency, but is rather oppressing it. One legal response is to attempt impeachment. Another, however, is for an intermediary official to withstand the oppression on behalf of the people.
This is a duty of all lesser magistrates. They are representatives of the people. When the higher governors turn against the people, the lower representative has a duty to uphold what is right.
If he can band together with several other intermediary officials, it is an advantage. This is what we are seeing in the large number of formal and informal sheriff’s associations nationwide resisting gun control laws passed hastily by activist and opportunistic liberal legislatures and governors. The greater number of lesser magistrates involved makes a response of brute force less likely.
Thus, this episode is also a clear example of the recently growing attention given to the role of the county sheriff—the only local office in America in which the official takes an oath to uphold the Constitution of the U.S. This makes that office unique among lesser magistrates. He is not a representative of the state, though he is an administrative agent of a corporation created by the State—that is, the county. Rather, he is an elected representative of the people. Thus, he has a duty to express the will of the people in how he administers the county.
This should affect how he views the Constitution he swore to uphold. It should affect how he interprets that Constitution over against liberal legislators and governors who ignore it. He should be viewed as duty-bound to interpret that document as a faithful representative of his local people who elected him rather than as a puppet of the governor.
And thus, when the state passes anti-gun legislation, that sheriff is oath-bound to uphold his constituents’ second amendment rights: refuse to enforce those laws, and join lawsuits against them if necessary and proper. This is an expression of public righteousness by him and on behalf of his local people. It is a voice of prophetic condemnation against the transgressing higher magistrate.
Let us hope that the court resolves this in favor of the biblical view of self-defense and the legacy of the right to bear arms which flows from it.
It is also my advice to start discovering and then taking into account a local sheriff’s view of constitutional interpretation during election season. Anyone not willing to understand and to uphold a strict construction view, or something very close, should be viewed with great suspicion.