“Sheriffs First” anti-gun-control bill in Indiana legislature

Last night, Josh Marshall noted the case of an Oregon sheriff who claims he will refuse to enforce any federal gun control laws. Marshall seemed surprised by this, writing:

However that may be, random Sheriffs can’t judge and nullify federal laws. They’re cops. Not legislators, not Courts. Bizarre.

The greater lesson is that if you have guns or care a lot about guns the Constitution seems to give you a standing right to do or say whatever you want and be standing up for freedom and the constitution by doing it.

Marshall seems to be unaware of just how widespread this particular flavor of “Tentherism” has become.

Earlier this week, a Texas lawmaker introduced a bill that would allow local police to arrest any federal officials who attempt to enforce gun control laws. The Texas bill follows a Wyoming bill that would make it a felony to enforce federal gun laws.

Here in Indiana, State Senator Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) has introduced Senate Bill 127, which would largely accomplish the same thing. While not specifically limited to gun control, Kruse’s bill endows county sheriffs with the ultimate authority to enforce the laws:

Provides that a federal employee who is not designated by state law to act as a state law enforcement officer may not make an arrest, a search, or a seizure in Indiana without the written permission of the sheriff or the designee of the sheriff who has jurisdiction in the county in which the arrest, search, or seizure will occur. Provides certain exceptions. Provides that if an arrest, a search, or a seizure is made without the sheriff’s written permission, the federal employee must be prosecuted under Indiana law and charged with an offense appropriate to the circumstances. Provides that under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Indiana’s compact with the other states, the general assembly declares that any federal law that purports to provide federal employees with the authority of a sheriff in Indiana is not recognized by and is specifically rejected by the state of Indiana and is invalid in Indiana. (emphasis added)

Reno 911 cast photo

They are our only hope against jackbooted federal agents (Reno 911 © Comedy Central)

Doug Masson wrote a near-perfect rebuttal of this anti-government bill last week, but I want to look at a different aspect – namely, the fact that Kruse’s bill appears to be a replica of model legislation provided by various conservative groups.

The idea of this “Sheriffs First” legislation seems to come from former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack. Mack was one of the two sheriffs to challenge parts of the Brady Bill, a case that ended with the Supreme Court striking down some of the interim provisions of the bill in Printz v United States. Over the past several years, Mack has been working with groups like the Oath Keepers

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, the John Birch Society, and former Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik’s “Free America Now” to promote the idea that sheriffs have authority over federal officials.

Mack and his allies have also heavily promoted Elkhart County sheriff Brad Rogers, who threatened to arrest FDA agents investigating a bacteria outbreak linked to raw milk.

Attempts to legislate the supremacy of sheriffs have been around for nearly a decade. In 2005, Montana lawmaker Ray Hawk introduced House Bill 284 with the unwieldy title, “An act regulating arrests, searches, and seizures by federal employees; providing that federal employees must obtain the county sheriff’s permission to arrest, search, and seize; providing exceptions; providing for prosecution of federal employees violating this act; rejecting federal laws purporting to give federal employees the authority of a county sheriff in this state; and providing an immediate effective date.” The bill never made it out of committee.

Since then, nearly identical bills have also been introduced in Alabama, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Washington. Montana defeated the bill again in 2011.

Arizona even passed a version of this bill in 2012, but it was vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer.

The text of the Indiana bill seems to copy language used by the website sheriffsfirst.net and the Tenth Amendment Center.

The “Sheriffs First” website is registered to Gary Marbut, the head of the Montana Shooting Sports Association and a former candidate for the Montana house. On his personal website, Marbut writes that he was a past member of the Board of Directors of Gun Owners of America. On his campaign website, Marbut claims to have authored 58 bills that have passed the Montana legislature.

The Tenth Amendment Center is a project of Michael Boldin, who promotes various 10th Amendment “nullification” projects. The Tenth Amendment Center provides model legislation for the “Sheriffs First” legislation, and tracks its progress in state legislatures around the country.

Senator Kruse kicked off this year’s General Assembly session with a bang, introducing a huge number of bills. Right now, he’s listed as the author of 55 bills for this session alone, many of which were introduced on the first day. And this “Sheriffs First” legislation is not the only one that seems to be cribbed in its entirety from conspiracy-theory-driven conservative model legislation factories, which I hope I can explore over the coming days.