Sheriffs Across the Nation Refuse to Enforce State Gun Bans

Dan Joseph
By Dan Joseph | August 22, 2014 | 1:03 PM EDT

A growing number of local sheriffs across the country are refusing to enforce gun bans that have been passed at the state level. Sheriffs in states such as New York, Colorado and Maryland are saying that because they believe the laws violate the 2nd Amendment of the U.S Constitution, that they are under no obligation to enforce the new gun restrictions in their localities.

“I knew this was a local issue, but I also knew it had serious ramifications on the U.S. Constitution, specifically for our Second Amendment right,” said Wicomico Country, Maryland Sheriff Mike Lewis. “It ignited fire among sheriffs throughout the state. Those in the rural areas all felt the way I did.”

Lewis is refusing to enforce provisions of Maryland's Firearms Safety Act, which was passed in 2013.

In Colorado, 55 of the states 62 sheriffs attempted to sign on as plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging new gun laws passed by the state.

In New York 62 sheriffs have vowed not to enforce the high-capacity magazine and assault-weapon bans that was passed as part of the 2013 SAFE Act.  

But can they do that?  Are sheriffs allowed to disregard state law if they feel as though it is unconstitutional or simply because they don’t agree with it?

Lewis thinks so.

“State police and highway patrol get their orders from the governor,” the Maryland sheriff said. “I get my orders from the citizens in this county.”

But Montgomery County Sen. Brian Frosh, who is also the Democratic nominee for Attorney General in the state, strongly disagrees with Lewis’s understanding of his role as sheriff.

“If you are a sheriff in Maryland you must take an oath to uphold the law and the Constitution,” said Frosh.  “You can’t be selective. It’s not up to a sheriff to decide what’s constitutional and what isn't. That’s what our courts are for.”

Despite the opposition from high ranking state officials, Frosh says he’s not budging.

Where do we draw a line?” he asked. “I made a vow and a commitment that as long as I’m the sheriff of this county I will not allow the federal government to come in here and strip my law-abiding citizens of the right to bear arms. If they attempt to do that it will be an all-out civil war. Because I will stand toe-to-toe with my people.”