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Justin Smith, Larimer County sheriff, says he won't enforce "unconstitutional" gun laws

In recent days, President Barack Obama has proposed new gun control laws following the Sandy Hook shooting -- and Colorado lawmakers such as Representative Rhonda Fields are backing similar measures.

The trend clearly concerns Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, who's now announced that his office won't enforce gun laws he considers to be unconstitutional.

Smith posted a long essay entitled "Preserving our Constitutional Republic" on his Facebook page. In it, he declares that as sheriff, he will not "enforce unconstitutional federal laws...obey unconstitutional laws...allow others to violate the Constitutional Rights of those in my county."

Justin Smith at a "polar plunge" event in a photo from his Facebook page.
Justin Smith at a "polar plunge" event in a photo from his Facebook page.

Which recent proposals trouble Smith? For one, broader background checks in regard to firearm purchases -- a subject Fields's aforementioned bill is also meant to address at the state level. We've shared Smith's entire missive below, but here's an excerpt:

The only possible way to achieve "universal background checks" for private transactions of lawfully-owned firearms is to register every single firearm in existence in our nation. Otherwise, the federal government could never prove the transaction of a firearm. Anyone who fails to go through with such registration will be defined as a criminal by our federal government. That same government which has all too often has failed to enforce the current laws against criminal predators, will then start to discriminately target and prosecute law-abiding Americans who are simply exercising their Constitutionally recognized Right to keep and bear arms.

The response to this post, especially after it was shared in the Fort Collins Coloradoan , has been swift and widely varied. Comments on a Coloradoan poll asking, "Do you agree with Sheriff Smith?" range from expressions of support like this one....

America will be far better off having local Sheriffs that live in the area they represent deciding what laws they'll enforce instead of every LEO just carrying out whatever orders they're given from the federal government with no questions asked.

...to passionate criticism exemplified by the following:

Sherriff Smith is now a self-made constitutional law attorney. He needs to get out of the business of deciding which laws he will enforce.

Smith seems to be enjoying the debate his manifesto has stirred. On a subsequent Facebook post, he notes that he's gained 150-plus followers since he shared his thoughts. He also includes two links to the Coloradoan survey, including one in which he encourages his new friends to weigh in, "so that the discussion isn't one-sided."

Continue to read Sheriff Smith's essay.

Here's Smith's Facebook treatise.

Preserving our Constitutional Republic

The United States was very deliberatively established as a Constitutional Republic. John Adams said it succinctly "We are a nation of laws, not a nation of men." Our founding was based on the clear understanding that we are endowed by our Creator with our unalienable Rights. While our Constitution clearly defined these Rights, it did not create or establish these rights and no government official has the authority to take these Rights away.

The most basic of these Rights include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To assure the protection of these Rights, our Constitution was amended in 1791 with the Bill of Rights. The second Right articulated in the amendments was the Right of self-protection by individual citizens through the private ownership and possession of firearms.

Our founders had the wisdom to establish a nation where citizens granted the authority to be governed from the local level up to the federal level and they made it clear that the powers of the federal government were to be limited to only the areas defined in our Constitution. The government established by our Constitution is a divided government which created a balance of powers between the legislative, judicial and executive branches. Each branch has limited powers and each has an ability to keep the other in check. The executive branch is empowered to enforce laws, but not to establish laws.

That has not changed.

Colorado was established with the Constitutional Office of Sheriff. Statutes define the specific duties of the Sheriff, but through tradition and law, it is clear, the Sheriff's duties include the absolute obligation to protect the Rights of the citizens of the county, and the Sheriff is accountable directly to those citizens. The Colorado Sheriff occupies this independent office which is not a subservient department of county, state or federal government.

As Sheriff, I will not:

• Enforce unconstitutional federal laws

• Obey unconstitutional laws

• Allow others to violate the Constitutional Rights of those in my county

I encourage thinking citizens of all political affiliations, or no political affiliation, to carefully and logically follow the shell game that is occurring before their very eyes. The only possible way to achieve "universal background checks" for private transactions of lawfully-owned firearms is to register every single firearm in existence in our nation. Otherwise, the federal government could never prove the transaction of a firearm. Anyone who fails to go through with such registration will be defined as a criminal by our federal government. That same government which has all too often has failed to enforce the current laws against criminal predators, will then start to discriminately target and prosecute law-abiding Americans who are simply exercising their Constitutionally recognized Right to keep and bear arms.

We must understand that while we are talking about the Right to keep and bear arms today, we could just as easily be talking about the Right to lawfully assemble and petition our government, the Right to free speech, the Right to worship freely, the Right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure or any of our other Rights. They all have to be defended without fail.

I will continue to honor my oath to uphold the Constitution and protect citizens of my county. I will not allow unconstitutional proposals to stand. County by county, state by state, we must protect these God-given Rights that so many fine Americans before us have defended with their lives over the last 237 years. We will remain a Constitutional Republican for as long as we are respectful of these Rights.

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