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Sheriff John Cooke, right, who opposes stricter gun laws, shakes hands with an attendee at the Colorado Farm Show in Greeley, Colo. Rural sheriffs across the country have reacted in public opposition to President Barack Obama’s call for stiffer gun laws, releasing a deluge of letters, position papers and statements laying out their arguments in stark terms. (MATTHEW STAVER/NYT)
Sheriff John Cooke, right, who opposes stricter gun laws, shakes hands with an attendee at the Colorado Farm Show in Greeley, Colo. Rural sheriffs across the country have reacted in public opposition to President Barack Obama’s call for stiffer gun laws, releasing a deluge of letters, position papers and statements laying out their arguments in stark terms. (MATTHEW STAVER/NYT)

Globe editorial

Utah Sheriffs threaten the U.S. government on gun control Add to ...

To the two well-known schools of U.S. constitutional thought – the originalists and the living constitutionists – we may now add a third school, that of the Utah Sheriffs. The originalists believe all decisions should be what the Constitution’s framers would have wished them to be. The living constitutionists believe interpretations grow and change over time. And the Utah Sheriffs believe that they are the highest court in the land, and their interpretation goes.

All rise in the Court of Chutzpah. In an open letter to President Barack Obama, the elected members of the Utah Sheriffs Association implicitly threaten violent resistance to any attempts by the federal government to enforce Mr. Obama’s executive orders on gun control.

“We will enforce the rights guaranteed to our citizens by the Constitution. No federal official will be permitted to descend upon our constituents and take from them what the Bill of Rights – in particular Amendment II – has given them. We, like you, swore a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and we are prepared to trade our lives for the preservation of its traditional interpretation.”

What a dangerous moment, when hysteria is fomented by the people whose job is to enforce the law. The Supreme Court is the guardian of the Constitution, not the Utah Sheriffs, or those in other largely rural states who have published similar letters. The sheriffs are reinforcing a violent society’s message that violent resistance, not law, is an answer to problems.

Perhaps, like Martin Luther King, the Utah Sheriffs are dedicated to opposing laws they consider unjust. Fair enough – then quit. Like the marriage commissioners in parts of Canada who refused to wed gay couples, they have freedom of choice. They can’t be forced to do a job they don’t believe in.

But this isn’t a campaign of civil disobedience the sheriffs warn of. It’s closer to a declaration of war.

We trust that President Obama will stick to his, uh, guns, and that ultimately, the rule of law will prevail.

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