This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In light of the Utah Sheriffs Association's recent rant, there are a few clarifications to make concerning the changes in federal gun-control laws being proposed by President Obama
First, there is no proposal to authorize federal agents to seize guns that have been lawfully purchased. Nobody is going to knock on Utahns' doors and demand that the occupants turn over their assault rifles, even if the president's proposals were to become law.
Second, while the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution may provide that citizens can arm themselves, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government has authority under the Constitution to set reasonable limits on gun ownership and use. No one in the Obama administration is suggesting repeal of the Second Amendment.
The White House proposals are well within the parameters of what should be considered reasonable. The changes a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and requiring background checks on all gun sales would not inhibit a person's ability to hunt or protect his or her home, property or person.
Assault weapons that can fire numerous times in seconds are designed for only one thing: killing large numbers of people. The military and law enforcement officers need that ability; ordinary law-abiding citizens do not. Background checks are the first line of defense against weapons falling into the hands of people who should not have them. The law now allows most anyone to buy a gun at a gun show.
Finally, the Fourteenth Amendment just as much a part of the Constitution as the Second Amendment was added to clarify the relationship between federal law and state law. Known as the Supremacy Clause, it says the "Constitution, and the Laws of the United States … shall be the supreme Law of the Land." It means that the federal government, in exercising any of the powers in the Constitution, takes precedence over any conflicting state law or exercise of power.
It's worth noting that Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, whose jurisdiction includes the site of the Aurora, Colo., theater shootings, reminded sheriffs that they do not have authority to ignore federal laws, and Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder is not a member of the Utah association. The threat of the sheriffs association and one hot-headed legislator to arrest federal officers attempting to enforce any new restrictions on gun ownership after they have passed both houses of Congress is nothing but grandstanding.
When they cite the Constitution as the basis of their threat, they are simply broadcasting their ignorance of what the Constitution actually says. There will be no confrontation between sheriffs and federal agents over gun laws. But come to that, the Constitution is clear: Federal law must win.