In the United States, passing gun control legislation is incredibly difficult.
Even if a piece of gun control legislation is compatible enough with the Second Amendment to not be immediately struck down in the courts, it still must pass through multiple legislative bodies and be signed into law – all under a system of government designed to reflect the wishes of the people in a country comprised of people who, on average, tend to be very supportive of gun rights.
As difficult as it is to pass new gun control laws, though, some state governments are learning that it may be every bit as difficult to enforce them. In New Mexico, for example, a bill is awaiting the governor’s signature that would extend background checks so that they are required for the private sale of a firearm.
A majority of sheriffs in New Mexico, though, have vowed that they will not enforce the bill if it is signed into law, proclaiming that the law is both an unnecessary burden on legal gun owners as well as a law that is difficult to enforce and one that will strain the resources of local law enforcement.
In Colorado, one sheriff has gone on the record saying that he would rather go to jail than enforce the bill that just passed through his state’s Senate.
The bill – which is expected to pass the Colorado House and be signed into law without much struggle – is a version of the “red flag” laws passed in several other states, giving law enforcement the ability to remove firearms from individuals who are deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.
Sheriff Steve Reams of Weld County, though, argues that the bill is an unconstitutional infringement on gun rights that gives the state the power to strip away a person’s Second Amendment rights without due process – and Reams says that he will not enforce the law, even it means being put in jail for contempt of court.
Sheriff Reams isn’t alone in pushing back against this new bill. Once the bill passed the Colorado Senate, over half of the 64 counties in Colorado declared themselves to be “Second Amendment sanctuary” counties, proclaiming that no county resources would be used to enforce the new law.
In many of these Second Amendment sanctuary counties, the sheriffs and their departments are on-board with resisting the bill.
These push-backs against gun control present a real challenge for legislators looking to pass gun control measures and demonstrate just how difficult enforcing gun control in the United States really is. At the same time that many state legislators are actually seeing some success in passing gun control legislation, they are also seeing historic levels of push-back from lower levels of government.
Of course, in spite of the fact that these new bills are on the verge of being signed into law, there is still a high possibility that they are struck down in the courts before law enforcement is ever given the chance to enforce them.
Groups in both Colorado and New Mexico are already preparing legal challenges against the bills, and there’s a good chance that they will be successful. As difficult as it is to pass and enforce gun control legislation, successfully defending it in the courts when a majority of counties in the state are fighting against it is just as challenging.
Nevertheless, the success that many state legislators have seen in passing new gun control laws is still cause for concern. Laws such as the “red flag” law that passed in Colorado present very real threats to Second Amendment rights and are very close to being signed into law.
The fact that we now have to rely on sheriffs sacrificing their careers and risking jail time in order to stop this unconstitutional law is very disconcerting.
At the same time, though, push-back from sheriffs and the counties where they serve demonstrates to legislators that actually enforcing gun control legislation isn’t quite as easy as simply making sure that the legislation has enough votes.
In the end, implementing and enforcing gun control legislation in the United States remains a real challenge.