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In rural America, some sheriffs vow to defy Obama on gun control

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Acknowledging sheriff's unique position as directly elected law-enforcement chiefs, the Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officers Association in Fredericksburg, Texas, is pushing to get sheriffs to oppose the proposed laws. Richard Mack, the group's founder, sees the issue as fundamental to his view of what America is.

"Every intent is to keep this peaceful, but we also expect sheriffs to do what they're saying, which is to accept responsibility to protect citizens from exactly this type of overreach from the federal government," says Mr. Mack, a former sheriff in Arizona and co-plaintiff in Printz v. United States. "We're letting the federal government know that none of this is going to be tolerated, and it's not going to be allowed. The fact is, the ball is in their court, in Barack Obama's hands, and if he's going to push this, there's going to be some big-time problems."

Such statements – and proposed laws to arrest federal officers trying to carry out new gun restrictions – seem wrong-headed to University of Denver constitutional law professor Sam Kamin. "It sounds like the pre-Reconstruction South, where they vowed to arrest federal officers coming down to enforce federal law – which is just inherently inconsistent with the federal system," he says.

The political process "whereby the popular will is transformed into law through actions of Congress" has just begun, which means that "no one needs to be talking about armed resistance at this point," adds Professor Roosevelt of Penn.

Other rural sheriffs agree.

"I generally don't like to get in on the front of making wide sweeping pronouncements without seeing the actual bill," says Scott Berry, sheriff of Georgia's rural Oconee County. "My position is that constitutional means exactly what it says, and that we'll just wait and see what comes out of Washington. Until then, it's much ado about nothing."

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