Make Yuma County a sanctuary county for democracy — Greg Hill
And now a word from Sheriff Todd Combs, as posted on the YC Sheriff’s Facebook page:
“I do not and will not support [HB 1177 aka, the Red Flag Bill] because of failure to recognize the rights of the citizens of this nation which are guaranteed under the Constitution…The board of County Commissioners, who share a similar view on the Red Flag Bill, have met earlier this month and voted on this issue. They are waiting for a legal review and then it will be official that Yuma County is a [Second Amendment] sanctuary county.”
This was the first time I’d heard the term “sanctuary county,” but it sounded like a fascinating concept, so I did some reading. Here’s what I’ve learned:
The “Second Amendment sanctuary county” movement is an outgrowth of the Constitutional Sheriffs movement, which is an outgrowth of the Posse Comitatus movement.
As far as I can tell (Tony, can you spare me some dough to hire a research assistant?) Posse Comitatus originated in the Dark Ages. It gave medieval sheriffs the right to conscript any able- bodied person to assist in keeping the peace. In other words, a sheriff was allowed to assemble a posse.
Fast-forward 900 years to 1878. President Hayes signs the Posse Comitatus Act, a law that limited the federal military’s right to enforce domestic policies on the U.S. This was related to post-civil war occupation of the southern states. Or something like that. I’m a little cloudy on the details, and I’d be lying if I suggested I had a clue what any of this has to do with the Second Amendment.
But in the early 1970’s, one man apparently did have a clue. His name was William Potter Gale. Among other things, he believed that the U.S. Constitution was a divine document from God, and its purpose was to elevate white Christians above all other races and religions. In other words, he used the Holy Bible to justify his delusions of white supremacy. A classy man, that one. In 1971, Gale, using a pen name borrowed from a pro-Klu Klux Klan character from the pro-Klu Klax Klan film, The Birth of a Nation, wrote: “The county Sheriff is the ONLY LEGAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”
The legal basis of this argument is unclear to me.
Somehow, the word of this KKK enthusiast/self-proclaimed constitutional scholar has become the legal inspiration for hundreds of county sheriffs across the U.S. to operate under the illusion that they have the authority to enforce the constitution as they saw fit, irrespective of state or federal laws.
So, we have a dubious legal argument presented by a white supremacist who claimed that a county sheriff has a higher authority to interpret the U.S. constitution than state legislature, the U.S. congress, and the U.S. supreme court. And, for some reason, the only area in which I see county sheriffs actually enforcing this “constitutional supremacy” is by declaring that their counties are sanctuaries for…guns.
Let us visit a 2016 essay written by our former sheriff, Chad Day, a man who, in addition to deputizing a 72-year-old New York hedge fund magnate for his “posse,” clearly approved of portions of Gale’s gobbledy-goofus philosophy. In the essay, titled “The Second Amendment Protects You from Me” our former sheriff wrote: “The purpose of the Second Amendment was, and still is, for Americans to be able to protect ourselves from inappropriate and extreme over-each by our own government, in a word, tyranny… As a public servant, it is the job of the County Sheriff, elected by the people, to protect the people’s right to arm themselves for the expressed purpose of protecting themselves from government tyranny, even if that tyranny, God forbid, were to come from me.”
So, it’s tyrannical for a state legislature to pass laws based on its interpretation of the constitution, but it’s NOT tyrannical for a county sheriff to ignore those laws based on his interpretation of the constitution? Given the fact that Mr. Day lost his recent re-election campaign, I’d suggest that it’s democracy that protects us from him.
The constitutional sheriff’s movement is trying to climb a slippery slope. What if, for instance one of these non-tyrannical constitutional scholars of a sheriff were to declare that, oh, I don’t know, all gun-owners had to belong to a well-regulated militia? God forbid, it could happen. Once you open the door marked “I Get to Make Up My Own Rules,” it’s kinda hard to shut it.
I’m extremely pleased that the Sheriff and the County commissioners are seeking a legal review of this absurd plan to ignore state law; and I’m crossing my fingers that this legal review is being overseen by someone who knows the difference between a democracy and a fiefdom.
NOTE: The Sheriff’s office did not respond to my request to clarify its stance on these issues.
Hill is a Yuma County native, a graduate of Liberty School, and has returned to his southeast YC roots. He is an author of three fiction novels “East of Denver” “The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles” and “Zebra Skin Shirt.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.