If Idaho had been part of the Union in 1850, and Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney had occupied that office at the time, he would have dutifully arrested any black man or woman identified as an escaped slave. Oh, sure, Raney may have expressed agonized reluctance as he did so – but that reluctance would have been rhetorical window-dressing for his pious invocation of the sacred responsibility he had to submit to the “law of the land.”
This is the inescapable logic of the position Raney has taken in an op-ed column published this morning in the Idaho Statesman.
“I have been asked many times in the past couple of weeks whether I will uphold my oath to defend the Constitution and proclaim an intolerance of federal action against the Second Amendment,” Raney writes. Many others have indulged that pressure and now we see Oregon sheriffs, Wyoming legislators and others making hollow promises to protect you from the intrusions of the federal government.”
“I did not swear to uphold just part of the Constitution,” Raney continues, before tacitly promising to do that very thing. You see, the Constitution, on Raney’s construction, “includes the right to keep and bear arms, but it also includes the `supremacy clause’ that says that every state shall abide by the laws passed by our Congress."
Actually, that right is not included in the Constitution; it exists independent of that document or any other government charter, and no government has the moral right or delegated authority to take it away. What Raney asserts here is the idea that the existence of that right is contingent on government approval, and thus can be nullified by government. From this perspective, the only part of the Constitution that matters is the supremacy clause, at least as people like Raney pretend to understand it.
“So, despite the fact that I personally oppose some of the gun control measures currently under consideration, my oath requires me to uphold the laws that are passed by our federal and state representatives,” summarizes Raney. The same would have been true, of course, of the Fugitive Slave Act – which was properly enacted and enforced as the “law of the land” despite the heroic efforts of people in some cities and states to nullify enforcement of that abominable measure.
Give Raney whatever credit is due to him for his candor: Like the other sheriffs who have pledged not to carry out unconstitutional federal gun confiscation measures, Raney receives federal subsidies – but unlike his pro-Second Amendment colleagues, Raney is forthright about the fact that he is merely a servile tool of the federal leviathan state. He will confiscate firearms from innocent people if ordered to, but at least he won’t have to walk back any promises he had made to protect their rights.