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How will local agencies enforce gun-control laws?
By Richard Zowie
Exclusive to the Wilson County News
In the wake of mass shootings at an elementary school in Connecticut and a movie theater in Colorado, debate has raged across the country as to whether stricter gun-control legislation is needed.
This has been reflected in debate in the nation’s capitol, also, with rumors of strict federal legislation that has prompted many to question if their Second Amendment rights may be infringed. Some say more restrictive laws are needed, while others go further and say the Second Amendment should be repealed.
Others question the validity of trying to make a society safer by making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to own and use firearms. They point out that the highest crime areas in America, like Washington, D.C., and Chicago, have the strictest gun laws in the nation, proving that more restrictions are useless. They argue that areas with fewer firearm restrictions and with concealed-weapon laws tend to make criminals go elsewhere.
The concern of many in Texas who support the Second Amendment is, what would happen if the federal government chose to enact legislation that violated the Second Amendment? As a state, how would Texas respond? How would law-enforcement officers respond?
Many law-enforcement officials, most notably Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, have voiced their support for the Second Amendment. Known by many as America’s “Toughest Sheriff,” Arpaio has publicly stated that he would not enforce any federal laws contravening the Second Amendment and that he would not confiscate any firearms.
Locally, several municipalities and other elected bodies -- including Poth, Falls City, and Floresville -- responding to public sentiment, have adopted resolutions in affirming the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms.
Poth’s ordinance states that any federal law that directly violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and is unauthorized by the Constitution “... is not the supreme law of the land, and consequently, is invalid in the State of Texas and shall be further considered null and void and of no effect in this City.”
Falls City’s resolution says this, also, and encourages other local municipalities to pass similar resolutions.
The Wilson County News asked leading law-enforcement officers in our readership area about this issue. Floresville Police Department Chief Lorenzo Herrera, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt Jr., and La Vernia Police Department Chief Bruce Ritchey could not be reached for comment. Participants weighed in on whether or not they would enforce laws that contravene the Second Amendment or the Texas Constitution.
Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau
“I took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the laws of Texas.
“The U.S. Supreme Court makes the ultimate decision as to constitutionality of laws. If Congress passes a law, and the Supreme Court says it is constitutional, that’s the law of the land. To suggest that the federal government would pass a law that is unconstitutional is truly hypothetical.
“My job is to uphold the law, not to legislate,” she said. “I think it is a slippery slope for law-enforcement officials, who have sworn an oath to uphold the law, to decide which laws they will enforce and which laws they will not enforce.”
Pamerleau said she does not know of any plans in Bexar County or by the state of Texas to pass similar resolutions. She declined to weigh in directly against any potential federal actions against the Second Amendment, saying she prefers to not deal with hypothetical situations.
Poth Police Chief Lowell Hull
Hull explained that Poth’s governing body adopted the resolution, due to many inquiries and concerns from community members that Washington would pass laws banning firearms. If such laws were passed, many were concerned their weapons would be confiscated, Hull said.
“History shows that the Founding Fathers understood that the only way a corrupt government could be kept in check was to allow their citizens to be armed. History also shows that many governments who keep their citizens unarmed have terrorized their societies and have ruled over their citizens ruthlessly.”
Hull added that during World War II, the Japanese decided not to invade the U.S. mainland because they feared the citizens, reported to all be armed. He said that if the citizens were totally disarmed, only the law-abiding citizens would give up their weapons, leaving weapons only in the hands of criminals. “All one has to do is look at the massacres in Mexico, just across the border from the United States, to see what can happen to unarmed citizens.”
Hull said that if the federal government wanted to ban the right to keep and bear arms, it would have to pass a constitutional amendment. Even then, two-thirds of all the states would need to ratify it -- 30 out of the 50 states -- for it to become law.
The Poth chief said he does not see any amendment banning citizens from arming themselves passing in his lifetime. He also believes such laws would be impossible to enforce if the majority of citizens do not support the law.
“Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.”
Guadalupe County Sheriff Arnold Zwicke
“Every Texas sheriff, upon assuming their office, took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the great State of Texas. Of course, the sheriffs of Texas are committed to uphold their oath of office.”
It goes without saying, he said, that the Second Amendment provides that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” and the Fourth Amendment provides that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”
Atascosa County Sheriff David Soward
“I support and believe in the Second Amendment, and I am a Texas Constitutional officer and I am sworn to uphold the laws of the State of Texas,” he said. “Anything else at this point is a moot issue.” He does not believe any federal laws would be passed that would violate the Second Amendment, nor does he foresee having to enforce a law contradicting the Second Amendment.
Elmendorf Police Chief Michael Pimentel
Pimentel declined to speak on hypothetical situations in an official capacity within his jurisdiction, but said that he swore to uphold the laws of the U.S. Constitution, the state of Texas, and the laws and ordinances of Elmendorf.
While he could not speak for other jurisdictions, he said, “I can only respond by saying that I will not, nor will I compel the officers under my administration to, infringe upon the rights of the citizens of our community as provided under the Second Amendment of our Constitution.”
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