By Larry Pratt
Richard Mack is well known as the first of eventually six sheriffs to take on the Brady Law. And, much to the delight of pro-gunners around the country, the Supreme Court agreed with Mack in 1995 that the federal government did not have constitutional authority to force state officials to conduct background checks.
Mack is no longer in office, but that has not stopped him from staying involved in promoting constitutional issues. He is now taking the lead in informing sheriffs of the authority they have as the chief law enforcement officer in their counties. While this has come as a surprise to many federal officials, the Constitution is quite specific in terms of what they are allowed to do. Almost all the powers which “We the People” have delegated to the federal government are listed in the 18 clauses found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.
Sheriffs find that when they warn the feds not to conduct an unconstitutional police action against one of their citizens, the feds back down. Sometimes the feds threaten to arrest them, but when the sheriff’s response is “game on,” the stalemate ends with the feds backing down.
I recently attended the first conference of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. Nearly 100 sheriffs attended, in addition to many police chiefs and some county councilmen. One of the encouraging things about the conference was that while many of the sheriffs there were not initially willing to risk a confrontation with the feds, they are now willing to do so after hearing the testimonies from many of their fellow constables. It was very educational for them to hear how different sheriffs have “faced down” the feds.
For example, Tony DeMeo is a former Jersey City cop who ended up getting elected as Sheriff in Nye County, Nevada. He became a pivotal player in his county by protecting citizens from an outrageous abuse of power that was perpetrated by the Bureau of Land Management.
Pro-gun activists will remember the stalwart Rep. Helen Chenoweth of Idaho who served in the 1990s. Well her husband, Wayne Hage leased acreage for his ranch from the BLM. Hage had ownership of the water rights -- as long as he used the water at least once during the year.
Later, the BLM decided that Hage did not belong on the land, and so they began to confiscate his cattle. After the second theft, Hage enlisted DeMeo's assistance, which helped him deal with the BLM when they arrived a third time to confiscate even more cattle. Sheriff DeMeo confronted the BLM agents and backed them down to the point where Hage no longer had to worry about the BLM's larceny anymore.
After Hage’s death, his son won a lawsuit begun by his dad against the federales, and now a court ruling has established that the Hage family can live without fear of their government stealing their property.
It is clear that there are many sheriffs who are willing to protect their counties, but do not know what they can -- and should -- do. The Gun Owners online book store carries Richard Mack’s little book The County Sheriff, America’s Last Hope(http://gunowners.org/store/books). If your sheriff is not aware of his powers – and his responsibility – please give him a copy of this book.
We can put the federal Jeanie back in the bottle, one sheriff at a time.