Predictably, the lunatic fringe began to be heard from only moments after President Obama announced proposals for tighter gun controls that also reaffirm the constitutional right of responsible individuals to own firearms. The loony who got the most media attention was a sheriff.
Why was Sheriff Tim Mueller of Linn County, Oregon, so newsworthy? Well, for one thing sheriffs usually are referred to as “law enforcement officers.” When Mueller sent a letter to Vice-president Joe Biden saying he would not enforce laws or executive orders improving gun control if he deemed them unconstitutional, the sheriff moved from the realm of enforcing laws to deciding their merits. That would make him a novelty in modern America—a cop who also is the judge.
Mueller says in his letter he has served as a law enforcer for 31 years, so it seems fair to assume he is an adult. He should know that convincing voters in Linn County to elect him sheriff did not confer the power to rule on the constitutionality of federal laws or executive actions. The Supreme Court has ruled several times that the federal government has all the authority it needs to establish reasonable gun controls. And what the president has proposed is reasonable.
It is not surprising that the National Rifle Association refused to participate in developing the current proposals. Even though many polls show a large number of NRA members support reasonable gun controls, its leadership prefers to pander to the fringe with scare tactics about the government confiscating all guns or “give an inch and they’ll take a mile” kinds of admonitions.
What is surprising is that thousands of people, at least some of whom probably are adults, have expressed support for Mueller. Perhaps we should adopt some mental health standards for individuals allowed to comment on important questions. Such action might be a nice complement to Mr. Obama’s proposals, which include strengthening programs that could help people with mental problems and also improve screening so those with serious mental health issues would be less likely to acquire firearms.
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely we will get to work any time soon on devising controls that would prevent mental midgets like Mueller from wearing badges while defying the legal system that true American patriots understand and support.