An Oklahoma state senator recently reported 40 state sheriffs lobbying in Oklahoma. Contributor Michael Amity thinks that’s morally reprehensible.
Starting the Conversation will be a new periodic section at the Good Men Project aimed at starting a debate between all members of the political spectrum. Contributor Michael Amity and Politics editor Paul Blest will be the first to take part in a debate about the 2nd Amendment and how much power law enforcement actually has or should have.
Recently, 40 Oklahoma sheriffs lobbying inside their State Capitol were told to either disarm or leave. This forced them to decide between addressing their elected representatives, or protecting their constituents. They chose to walk out with their guns in unison. The request came from one of Oklahoma’s state senators (unidentified) in an apparent political move to slight their efforts. The incident speaks to the recurring issue of State overreach, in direct challenge to local authority.
From where does true power of the highest order derive? The system we have is a complex menagerie of delegations.
In school, we learned about “checks and balances”, meaning, government was formed as a necessary evil, yet we made ours to limit itself. At its core, it is us, and we designed it to preserve the most liberty for ourselves. People have a moral right to rule themselves, yet that won’t always work out in reality. The truth is your rights must be affirmed when they are challenged. Only then, are you enjoying the full benefits of a Republic.
If state and county levels of government disagree, the state always has more money to fight the battle, and when federal and state levels clash, the federal government has access to better, more intimidating weapons. However, this does not equate to a moral high ground for the federal government to do whatever they want. Freedom is not a power to do as you please–that’s not realistic. The better way to put it is: freedom is the ability to challenge a mighty demonstration of government, or any usurper of rights, in a common law setting–a right to seek remedy in court.
That power derives from natural law, the belief that everyone is equal under a higher authority than ourselves. That authority is not man-made, to be clear; it is the natural order of things. It has been called ‘God’s Law’ or ‘Moral Law’, but either way the principle is the same: each adult has no real say over another’s doings, so long as they are not hurting anyone. It makes sense: no one wants to be hurt, or their contracts not honored, simply because the majority has decided against them. Our system was meant to protect us from tyranny, and in it, ideally only people who hurt others should be punished.
Much can be concluded from viewing the Bill of Rights, especially the 10th Amendment, regarding freedoms exercised against oppression. Most importantly, these principles are inherent, not granted. In other words, rights are affirmed by documents, not bequeathed by them. Essentially, while the Federal government has a legitimate power, that power is limited by the States, and the highest power of all is held by us – we, the people.
That is why I am personally offended by the State Senator from Oklahoma, who hoped to see 40 of their State’s sheriffs weakened or embarrassed. If that legislator wanted to trample on the Constitution, that individual needs to feel real shame. I believe people with guns have as much right to lobby as people without. Oath keepers, as they like to call themselves, are on the front lines preserving liberty by calling attention to these sorts of Federal and State overreaches. The sheriff is the only elected position in a county government; they serve under a direct public mandate. Compare this with the power held at the federal level, where law enforcement comes via the Executive (President) of the United States, who is not directly elected by a popular vote. I say, rather sardonically, that with the relative ease inherent, a President would rather bargain for power–in a smoke-filled room, perhaps–with 270 individuals, the majority of a group of 538 electors–rather than behold himself to 300-plus million citizens; but sheriffs don’t get to consider that simplistic contrast of options for themselves.
Of course, a sheriff doesn’t know everything, nor is any human infallible. If a sheriff is not defending rights, one can seek remedy in a court. An example of this is happening right now, in fact. A federal court case is playing out this week, in which the constitutionality of tactics implemented by controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, are being called into question based on racial prejudices alleged relating to profiling of Latinos.
I am against discrimination, but in that sheriff’s defense, he is enforcing a law that was passed at the State level in an attempt to thwart illegal immigration. It will be determined, likely through appeals that may reach the Supreme Court, whether that law is Constitutional.
It was established by the founders that there would be multiple spheres of power at all times to check one another. They would exist simultaneously and be sovereign of one another. That sovereignty has little value, though, without enforcement power and jurisdiction placed in the local county sheriff’s hands.
That is why we need to support our sheriffs, as a whole. There is no other way if, on the local level, we want to rigorously defend the Constitution. The buck has to stop somewhere, and often for individuals, its not with the Feds, it’s at the Sheriff’s office. It’s long been understood that a government can be eager to impose standards without concern for human rights. At the highest level, it may continue to lessen individual freedom through coercion. It is my belief that our government was intended to be limited, and that the Bill of Rights can be interpreted no other way.
Should the sheriffs have cowed? Lets have a discussion.
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Photo – Flickr/nostri-imago