WASHINGTON POST — Local police chiefs and sheriffs typically swear to enforce the laws of their state. But a group called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association is intent on strictly enforcing their view of the U.S. Constitution and, according to a long new piece by the Center for Public Integrity, “its ambition is to encourage law enforcement officers to defy laws they decide themselves are illegal.” In essence, they are troubled by the overreach of the federal government in matters concerning guns, taxes and land management, and founder Richard Mack has described the federals as “the greatest threat we face today,” and his association as “the army to set our nation free.”
In an interview with Julia Harte and former Post reporter R. Jeffrey Smith, Mack said he had enlisted “several hundred” of the more than 3,000 sheriffs around the country as members of the CSPOA, and that hundreds more are sympathetic. At the association’s 2014 convention, dozens of sheriffs signed a declaration that they would not tolerate any federal agent who attempted to register firearms, arrest someone or seize property in their counties without their consent.
Mack struck a blow for states’ rights in the 1990s as a sheriff from Graham County, Arizona, when he and a sheriff from Montana challenged the Brady Bill’s interim requirement that local law enforcement agencies perform background checks on gun buyers. The Supreme Court ruled in Mack’s favor, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing the opinion affirming the states’ sovereignty under the 10th Amendment and that the federal government could not enlist the local police in 50 states to do its bidding. The decision did not have lasting impact because a national database was put in place to enable gun dealers to run the checks themselves, removing local law enforcement from the process.