Sheriffs must be gun-ho about enforcement

Credit: Braden Kelner/Forum Editor Credit: Braden Kelner/Forum Editor
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After a series of shootings last year — including those in Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn. — several nationwide efforts were made to improve America’s relaxed gun legislation and enforcement, especially on the federal level. However, there are also detractors and gun advocates who have been critical of these changes.

Last month, one Colorado sheriff, John Cooke, said that he would not enforce two gun-control laws that would be signed by governor John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.). Cooke called these laws “feel-good, knee-jerk reactions that are unenforceable.” Other Colorado sheriffs have made similar statements, while sheriffs in other states, such as Oregon and Kentucky, stated that they will not enforce federal gun legislation.

The stance that these sheriffs have taken is highly problematic. Such officials are supposed to enforce the law to the best of their ability. Refusing to enforce laws, or only enforcing certain laws, is akin to teachers refusing to teach or doctors refusing to treat people. Unless there are very good reasons for their actions, sheriffs refusing to enforce the law are not doing their jobs.

In the case of Colorado, the laws in question aim to expand background searches and limit ammunition magazines to 15 rounds. Enforcing these laws would not require the sheriff to actually track down and confiscate guns; rather, they only require that one makes sure vendors are properly filing paperwork, and that they are not selling too many rounds. There is no good reason why these laws cannot be enforced.

Although Colorado has been traditionally known for its “cowboy” culture, it is surprising to me how resistant some of its citizens have been to gun enforcement laws, especially considering last year's deadly theater shooting in Aurora.

This intransigence is a testament to how deeply entrenched gun culture is in certain parts of America. Many of the new gun legislation laws certainly do not nullify the second amendment, but it seems like they have nonetheless stirred mistrust and panic in gun aficionados.

There is an almost irrational fear among gun lovers. Consider the recent increase in gun purchases made, as evidenced by The New York Times, after Vice President Joe Biden announced that he would propose measures to curb gun violence. He did not actually propose the measures, but simply announced that he would propose them.

To reduce gun violence and better regulate the sale of firearms, the policy required is simple — stricter background checks, a national gun registry, and the tracking of guns over time. The real challenge may lie in confronting die-hard gun advocates and changing America’s gun culture.