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Kearns and Sons

A solution in search of a problem

I see that some Montana Legislators are going to be pushing the “Sheriffs First” legislation again this coming January. It must be close to the umpteenth time this anti-federal government idea has been brought to the legislature, but it still hasn’t passed, and with good reason; it’s a bad idea and has little to no support from Montana Sheriffs.
Essentially, the idea behind “Sheriffs First” is that the County Sheriff is the supreme law enforcement officer of a county and that state and federal law enforcement agencies need to have the Sheriff’s permission to do business within county jurisdiction. I cannot see that this is the most pressing issue facing Montanans, but others sure do.
I first became acquainted with the legislation in the 1990s when the idea was first introduced in the legislature. Basically it was promoted as a tool to correct perceived federal excess of enthusiasm in enforcing federal law. There were three compelling events at that time that were used to justify its passage, and of course one included the Black Helicopters taking an “honest” American for a ride.
Another revolved around an IRS early morning raid to seize forfeited personal property in the Bitterroot, and the most objectionable point here was that the IRS agents were not in uniform. I don’t know what the IRS uniform is—I suspect a tie and coat—but maybe it was casual Friday. At any rate, they weren’t dressed up like law enforcement and the Ravalli County Sheriff had apparently not been notified that the raid would take place. The “victims”, by the way, were tax dodgers who had had their day in court, had lost, and despite repeated warnings refused to relinquish court awarded property to the IRS.
But the winner of the proverbial cake was a “document” from the White House that discussed plans to take away the weapons of law-abiding Americans. I requested a copy of the document from the bill’s sponsor and was presented with a printout from the internet. It was labeled something like “Minutes of meeting of Handgun Control at White House,” and in the upper left hand corner was a handwritten note that said, “Presidential Seal goes here” so you knew it had to be an official.
It discussed the hypothetical ways in which guns could be confiscated, and so far it was believable enough, but then it went on to talk about outlawing the sale of war toys, combat boots, and camouflage clothing. Despite the “Presidential Seal goes here” language, it was at this point that I began to suspect that this was a bogus document, because nobody in their right mind would attempt to get bow hunters out of camo. I also thought, perhaps a bit unkindly, that no one in their right mind would believe anything in the document, but some were taking it seriously regardless.
In its various forms, the proposed law has given the Sheriff the power to arrest a federal or state agent who comes into a county without the Sheriff’s written approval. I pictured a scenario in which a US Marshal for Montana, in town to capture, say, the Unabomber, is arrested by the Sheriff for not getting the proper permission. As the Marshal is being transported to the calaboose the patrol car drives through National Forest, at which point the sheriff is out of his jurisdiction, and the Marshal pops the Sheriff for assaulting a Federal officer. Once off of fed lands, the Sheriff charges the Marshal with resisting arrest. Meanwhile, the Unabomber hightails it to Timbuktu and… you get the picture.
Sheriffs enforce state—not federal—law within their jurisdiction, which is the county. Federal agents enforce federal—not state—law in their jurisdiction, which is the nation. I’m pretty comfortable with that, but I’m not at all comfortable with the “Sheriffs First” legislation.
It is just more of the anti-government hogwash coming from extremists, and not worthy of consideration. In short, it’s a waste of time and money, and solves nothing that needs solving.
Jim Elliott
Trout Creek

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