In recent years, some sheriffs have embraced the notion that they are the ultimate defenders of the U.S. Constitution and the rights of Americans. This perspective is linked to their views on gun rights and their support for looser gun laws. According to research conducted by experts, sheriffs are more likely to support gun ownership than the public at large.
A Movement Takes Hold
The idea of sheriffs as the final line of defense against federal overreach dates back to the Posse Comitatus movement of the 1970s. But it was Richard Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, who helped popularize the idea in modern times. Mack formed the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association in 2009 to promote the idea that sheriffs have the power to resist unconstitutional laws and policies. Mack’s organization has been successful in recruiting sheriffs to their cause, particularly around issues of guns, immigration, and COVID-related policies.
In research conducted in 2012 and again in 2021, experts found that sheriffs are far more likely to support looser gun laws than the public at large. This trend is linked to the beliefs of “constitutional sheriffs” who view themselves as the ultimate protectors of the Constitution. This ideology encourages sheriffs to refuse to enforce laws they believe to be unconstitutional and to resist overreach by the federal government.
In Illinois, sheriffs have been at the forefront of the debate around gun control. When the state passed a gun safety measure in 2018, sheriffs statewide opposed the measure and threatened not to enforce it, arguing that it violated the people’s constitutional rights. Despite calls from state and federal officials to enforce the law, many sheriffs continue to argue that they get to determine which laws to enforce. This standoff highlights the growing influence of “constitutional sheriffs” and their impact on the gun control debate.
The Sheriffs’ Perspective on Gun Rights
One of the main concerns among sheriffs when it comes to gun rights is the potential for government overreach. Many sheriffs worry that proposed gun control measures will infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. They argue that any attempt to restrict access to guns or limit the types of firearms that people can own is an attack on the Constitution and a violation of their duty as defenders of the law.
Most sheriffs acknowledge that there are legitimate concerns about gun violence in the country. However, they argue that the best way to address these concerns is not through gun control measures, but through education and mental health initiatives. Many sheriffs also believe that the problem of gun violence is not one that can be solved through legislation alone, and that it requires a multifaceted approach that includes addressing issues such as poverty, inequality, and mental health.