Governments are a lot like two-year-olds. They often seem to be trying to push those on whom they depend for support as far as possible without actually going over the line and incurring punishment. A toddler’s reprimand might involve a time out, or whatever new age parents do these days to pretend they’re punishing their children. With government it generally boils down to not being reelected. Same as a time out.
Our government’s pushing, lately, has involved several areas, including health care reform, global warming, and, my personal favorite, Second Amendment issues. These things don’t have much in common, except that our federal government tries to regulate all three, when in fact it has no authority at all in these areas.
I recently learned way more than I ever expected to about our federal government’s authority at a shindig in Fredericksburg put on by a group called the Patriots of Gillespie County. The speakers were Stewart Rhodes, the founder of Oath Keepers, and Sheriff Richard Mack. Both must have to wear earplugs, to keep all the stuff they know from leaking out.
You’ve probably heard of Sheriff Mack. He’s written three books, the shortest of which is ‘County Sheriffs, America’s Last Hope.’ It’s only about 50 pages long, and he said he made it short so the country’s sheriffs wouldn’t have any excuse not to read it.
Mack made history as the sheriff who sued the United States, all the way to the Supreme Court, and won. This came about because of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, signed into law by Bill ‘Where were my pants again?’ Clinton in 1994. That act required law enforcement officers on the county and state level to enforce the ban, did not provide any funds to help them enforce it, and provided for their arrest if they didn’t enforce it.
Mack was a County Sheriff in Arizona at the time, and when he found out what the ban said, he realized it put him between a rock and another rock. The problem was that Mack had taken an oath when he was sworn in as a sheriff to protect and defend the constitution of the United States. The assault weapons ban required him to violate that oath in order to enforce the unconstitutional law. So he sued Uncle Sam.
In 1997 the Supreme Court of the U.S. ruled in Mack’s favor. By that time he was broke, but at least he had not violated his oath, which he had made, not to the government, but to the American people.
But Mack is not the only sheriff who has stood up to an oppressive government. The same kind of thing happened in Montana or Wyoming or someplace. I forget where it was, and my brother has my copy of the book. Sorry.
What happened there was some federal agents showed up at a county sheriff’s office and said they were on their way to a ranch to confiscate a fellow’s cattle, because he hadn’t paid his taxes. They wanted the sheriff to help them. He said no. They said they were going anyway, and he said if they did he would arrest them and throw them in his jail.
The agents made some phone calls, talked among themselves for a while, looked at the jail, and left. What they found out was that they didn’t have any authority over the sheriff, and he could in fact put them in jail. They never went back.
But our federal government oversteps all the time. It has no authority to establish such organizations as the FBI, CIA, EPA, ESA, BATFE, or IRS, to name a few. Those groups exist because we have allowed them to, in violation of our constitution. And now, the Department of Homeland Security makes lists of people who are a ‘threat’ to national security. The people on the list are veterans, patriots, and anyone who quotes from the constitution.
I haven’t seen the list, but I would be extremely disappointed if I found out I wasn’t on it.
Stewart Rhodes started Oath Keepers for military, law enforcement, and fire department members who wanted a voice. Those who join are making the statement that they will not enforce unconstitutional laws, those which cause them to violate the oath they took to the American people. That, incidentally, is the oath ignored by police who confiscated guns from New Orleans residents after hurricane Katrina.
The thing to remember is that the constitution was written and ratified by delegates from the several states, in effect creating the federal government, and giving it limited powers. And the Tenth Amendment says to that federal government, "We’ve written down what you can do. If it’s not written down here, you can’t do it."
Like two-year-olds, governments have to be taught how to act, and given definite boundaries beyond which they are not allowed to trespass. And like parents, it is our responsibility to perform that instruction and set those boundaries. There will be temper tantrums and transgressions. How we deal with them determines what kind of child we raise, and what kind of government we end up with.
I don’t know about you, but I’m about ready to call a time out. . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who hopes the DHS is watching. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org