In this context, some of the statements by sheriffs and state lawmakers could be political posturing aimed at feeding the latent fear among many gun-rights advocates that increased gun registration will lead to a confiscation movement. But Mr. Obama has reiterated his support of the Second Amendment and the basic right of Americans to own and carry firearms both for hunting and self-protection.
Moreover, Congress has already given at least two of Obama's proposals – the bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines – a cool reception.
But the honest concern voiced by some sheriffs and lawmakers is also a sign of how thoroughly the Second Amendment is woven into views of freedom in parts of rural America.
In Kentucky's Jackson County, which bears the slogan "Where the mountains and the bluegrass blend," and Sheriff Denny Peyman ranks the Second Amendment's authority alongside the Bible's authority.
"I swore an oath to the Constitution,” Mr. Peyman said on Fox News Monday. “And in the Constitution is the Second Amendment, and that’s what this country is based upon. How can I rightfully in my own mind and in my heart come in and take guns away from people when that is their protection?”
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."