I was saddened when I read about Sheriff Tim Mueller’s letter to Vice President Joe Biden. It brought to mind the argument made for states rights during the Civil Rights era in an attempt by southern states to preserve Jim Crow and a system of laws enabling white citizens to economically exploit black citizens, deprive them of their right to vote, lynch, rape and do whatever else they felt was their God-given right.

They too were interpreting the Constitution of the United States.

I live and work in Linn County and this is my first letter to the editor of the Democrat-Herald. I am bothered by the fact that I hear a lot of negativity concerning the Obama administration, much more so than of the Bush administration, although in my opinion history will show that the Bush administration did a lot to dismantle our Constitutional rights.

As Michael Peck commented in Forbes on Jan. 16 about Sheriff Mueller’s letter:

“Nowhere does his bio say that he is trained as a constitutional lawyer. On what basis does he decide which laws are unconstitutional and which are not? There are federal laws that require registration of destructive devices. If I were to build to a surface-to-air missile capable of destroying an airliner, can I assume that Sheriff Mueller would not only refuse to enforce federal registration, but would actively prevent federal agents from arresting me?”

Interesting question.

He goes on to say that “those who break the law to defend your rights can also break the law to take them away.”

Food for thought.

Chaim Uri

Albany (Jan. 18)

(7) comments


Thank you!


Well stated.

Freedom writer
Freedom writer

Another writer ignorant of the separation of powers set forth in the constitution's 10th amendment. And Chaim? don't try the missile vs. airplane thing. Sheriff Mueller will arrest you for so many violations of state law that you will welcome seeing the federal agents that will have to take you into custody for federal violations. Local law enforcement does not, nor ever has been required to ENFORCE federal laws...ANY of them. That's why the FBI, BATF, Secret Service, etc exist: federal agencies enforce federal laws. Period. If local enforcement enforced federal law, why would we need federal agencies? Think about it and take a civics clas somewhere


Freedom writer,
Here is a different take than yours or Sheriff Mueller's on enforcement of Gun Laws and the role of Law enforcement from the Sheriff in Arapahoe County Colorado, the county where the Aurora theater shootings occurred and 12 people were murdered:

Colo. Sheriff: Only Courts Can Rule on Gun Laws
DENVER (AP) — The Colorado sheriff whose county includes the movie theater where 12 people were shot and killed last year says law-enforcement officers have no right to ignore gun-control laws unless the courts rule them unconstitutional.

Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson issued a statement Tuesday criticizing police and sheriff's officials who have said they would not enforce gun-control laws they consider unconstitutional.

Weld County Sheriff John Cooke has said he wouldn't enforce any of Obama's plan to address gun laws, and sheriffs in at least four Oregon counties said in a letter to Vice President Joe Biden they wouldn't work with federal officials to enforce potential gun laws they consider unconstitutional.

Gun control was thrust back into the national debate after the mass shootings at the theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora in July, and at a school in Newtown, Conn., in December, where a gunman killed 27 people, mostly young children.

President Barack Obama has proposed a series of measures to curb violence, triggering a heated response from some gun-rights supporters.

Robinson said only courts — and not law-enforcement officers — have the authority to determine whether a law is unconstitutional.

For a law enforcement official to claim that authority would be the equivalent of police officers or deputies deciding that people they arrest are guilty and sentencing them to jail, he said.

"Public safety professionals serving in the executive branch do not have the constitutional authority, responsibility, and in most cases, the credentials to determine the constitutionality of any issue," he said.

Robinson said he supports gun rights under the Second Amendment.

Justin Smith, a fellow Colorado sheriff in Larimer County, has said on Facebook that he wouldn't enforce unconstitutional laws, but his spokesman has said Smith wouldn't try to determine on his own what is constitutional.

Robinson's deputies were among the responders who rushed to the Aurora theater after a gunman opened fire, killing a dozen people and injuring 70. His deputies also are guarding suspect James Holmes in the county jail, and they escort him to and from court appearances and stand guard during hearings.

Aurora city police are in charge of the investigation.

Holmes faces multiple counts of murder and attempted murder. He has not entered a plea.

In his statement, Robinson also said that mental health and gangs do not get the attention they deserve in the debate over gun violence.

Freedom writer
Freedom writer

Sheriff Robinson is correct in that it is the court's responsibility to interpret and determine the constitutionality of laws in this country. However, perhaps Sheriff Robinson is unaware that he is not compelled or otherwise required to enforce (note I did not say follow) federal laws, no matter the subject, guns or otherwise. In many cases, local law enforcement is in fact, prohibited from taking such action (think immigration here). Sheriff Mueller would have served himself better, I admit, had he cited the proper case law to defend his position instead of expressing his opinion on the constitutionality or lack thereof of any federal law. That does not change the fact that he is on extremely solid legal footing by stating he will not enforce federal law, as ruled by the US Supreme Court in Printz v. U.S. (1997). And Sheriff Robinson should be very careful in his attempts to enforce federal law. The feds just might come after him.


I agree with you that the Sheriff does not have any specific legal authority to enforce Federal Law, but he also has no right OR AUTHORITY to prevent its enforcement by Federal employees such as agents of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.

Sheriff Mueller's letter to the Vice President, although probably well intended, demonstrates a lack of professional judgement and ignorance to what authority he actually has.
Here is a clear example to illustrate these points:
Sheriff Mueller wrote-
"Any federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the President offending the constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Linn County Oregon."

First, Sheriff Mueller has no right or authority to determine the constitutional legality of Federal regulations or Executive Orders on behalf of the citizens of Linn County or his employees.
Second, the Sheriff would be in violation of Federal law if he tried to prevent enforcement of Presidential Executive Orders as these orders are not meant to be imposed on citizens, but are orders for Federal Departments and their employees. This demonstrates a either a lack of understanding of what an Executive Order is, or is simply overstating his authority to bolster his position.
And, third, there is a process in place to challenge the Constitutionality of laws enacted by Congress and this process involves the Judicial system, not law enforcement.

Freedom writer
Freedom writer

Essentilly, we agree it seems. As I said, Sheriff Mueller could have helped his cause and his position had he left out the "unconstitutional" argument, and I too question his authority to deny federal agents access to the county (posse comitatus, perhaps). But my point remains regarding any obligation he has to enforce fed law. Some writers here calling for his ouster, claiming he's not enforcing "the law of the land" or "doing his job" needed to know that he actually is correct with regard to enforcement.

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