On Friday in the Idaho Statesman, Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney made a statement that was printed in the Opinion section. It was called, “I uphold all of the Constitution, not just part of it.”
“Very few occupations include the special pride that comes with the trust inherent in an oath of office, but mine does.”
I swore to work within our system of law and justice to fairly enforce what you, through your elected representatives in the Legislature and Congress, have decided should be the law of our land. Those laws are set upon a foundation of checks and balances, embodied in the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.When we forsake the law or disregard those checks and balances, we take the first step down the path towards anarchy.
Many others have indulged that pressure and now we see Oregon sheriffs, Wyoming legislators and others making hollow promises to protect you from the intrusions of the federal government. Let me respectfully remind you that we are the federal government, the state government and the local government.
I did not swear to uphold just part of the Constitution. Our Constitution includes the right to keep and bear arms, but it also includes the “supremacy clause” that says that every state shall abide by the laws passed by our Congress.
So, despite the fact that I personally oppose some of the gun control measures currently under consideration, my oath requires me to uphold the laws that are passed by our federal and state representatives.
When we disagree with those laws, the checks and balances built into our government point us toward the proper remedy: changing the laws or challenging them in the judicial branch. As to whether or not the president has the power to issue executive orders limiting our Constitutional rights, that is another matter to be decided by the Supreme Court, not by 44 different sheriffs in Idaho.
For all his talk about how importantly he holds his oath to the Constitution, it seems like he has little understanding of it. The US Constitution lists the powers of the Congress in Article I, Section 8. Furthermore, the Bill of Rights spells out certain things which the federal government is prohibited from doing (though, when drafted, it was argued that they were unnecessary since Article I, Section 8 didn’t give Congress the power to make laws regarding the freedom of speech, press, etc.). If Congress were to make laws contradictory to these restrictions, they are to be null and void. Obviously, laws can’t declare themselves to be null and void, hence the attempt to construct checks and balances. Checks and balances are supposed to be endogenous to the system of government. Obviously, Raney’s first proposed method doesn’t meet this criteria. What is the point of even having constitutional restrictions if Congress can pass any law it desires and the way to change it is to get that Congress to repeal such a law? Neither does the second. I don’t know many people who have the expertise or means to successfully challenge laws before the federal courts. Either way, one has to beg the federal government to follow the Constitution. Does Raney really believe that this is the best the Framers could come up with? In addition, he outright acknowledges that the president’s executive orders limit Constitutional rights. What is the point of constitutional rights if they can be violated at will? As well, the legislative power is to rest with the Congress, not the Executive, and the Constitution does not say, “And the Supreme Court will decide what is constitutional even if federal law contradicts this Constitution.”
Hollow promises and threats will only divert people from doing the right thing — honoring the truth and being involved in a process whereby our rights and liberties are protected by a respect of the law, not by rhetoric.
If any rhetoric is hollow, it is what is written above by Sheriff Raney. What does respect of the law mean if the federal government can repeal it at any time? What is the point of even having state governments if they are simply to be like provinces ultimately run by the federal government? What is the point of electing a sheriff if he does only what the federal government wants him to, rather than what the people who elected want? When it comes down to it, what Sheriff Raney is saying totally rejects the idea of self-governance: he says people in individual counties cannot decide how they want to live; 9 people in black robes who live over a thousand miles away get to do that for them and 300 million other people.
He isn’t upholding the Constitution; he is upholding the federal government.