I’m going to turn most of my column over to the voices of others today.
A thoughtful string of comments appeared on the Triplicate’s Facebook page after we posted a notice of an online poll at triplicate.com asking: Is it proper for Sheriff Dean Wilson to not enforce gun-control laws he considers unconstitutional?
Wilson recently told members of a State Senate committee that he would direct his department to ignore at least one proposed new gun-control law if it was passed. He was speaking about SB 374, which would add to the state’s current assault weapons law all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines, thus banning their manufacture and sale and requiring that those already owned be registered.
The sheriff said the proposed law would violate the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, which states in part, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
The poll question will be on our website for about another week. It’s far from a scientific survey, although there is a safeguard in place against multiple voting from a single computer. So far, the “yes” responses are slightly outpacing the “no” responses. As to those Facebook comments, here are some excerpts, starting with five in support of the sheriff’s position:
• “Of course it’s proper. His job is to protect us from unconstitutional laws that big government is imposing on us.”
• “Yes ... because the Constitution supersedes any changes by politicians. The Constitution (provides) guaranteed rights .... unfortunately, we aren’t learning what this means as we grow up nowadays. Had to read and learn the original documents to find it out.”
• “If a law is hastily written and unintentionally goes against the Constitution, then it is an unlawful law, and should not be upheld or enforced.”
• “He is bound by the Constitution, a higher authority than Sacramento legislators. Fortunately his position is an elected one. He has my vote!”
• “YES, 90% of our community are responsible hunters and we respect our American heritage! Thank you Sheriff Dean Wilson!”
On the other hand, here are five comments from people who disagree with Wilson in this case:
• “Of course it isn’t proper. Being sheriff doesn’t mean you get to pick and choose which laws you enforce. Be an example and go fight it the right way.”
• “No, it’s not proper for him to ignore the law. Some say it’s constitutional, some say it isn’t … It’s a very slippery slope to have a sheriff decide what laws to enforce.”
• “I do not believe he is given the right to ONLY ENFORCE what HE determines to be the law.”
• “He doesn’t write the rules. I’m not for the gun control laws but by not following the law does that not make him a criminal himself?”
• “There are huge, recent, infringements on the rights guaranteed by the fourth amendment. I haven’t seen the sheriff nor the county supervisors even raise an eyebrow on that issue!”
So there’s your dose of public discourse for today. Frankly, the only Facebook responses I found perplexing were a couple that criticized the newspaper for even asking this question. In an age of polarized politicians and equally polarized websites, we’re in desperate need of listening posts where people on all sides can discuss issues together. In cyberspace and in print, the Triplicate will remain one of those places.