State Rep. Yvonne Davis' Proposal to Fire Sheriffs Who Buck Federal Gun Laws Has the Right Stirred Up

It's been two-and-a-half months since Collin County Sheriff Terry Box made headlines (and, some might say, a bit of an ass of himself) by proclaiming that he and his deputies would have no part in enforcing federal gun laws that might "violate our precious constitutional rights."

It's not a terribly serious threat. The Supreme Court, not local law enforcement, determines whether a law is constitutional. Besides, counties play only a minor role in prosecuting federal gun crimes.

Still, Box's pronouncement, subsequently aped by other local officials in Texas, caught the attention of state Representative Yvonne Davis, a Dallas Democrat. A month ago, she quietly filed HB 2167.

The legislation doesn't mention Box by name. It doesn't have to. It simply states that any elected or appointed official in the state who "willfully fails" to enforce a state or federal law; directs his underlings to do the same; or "states orally or in writing" that he or she intends to do so will be removed from office.

That last bit seems to fly in the face of free speech rights, but civil liberties advocates needn't worry. In the Republican-dominated House, it's going exactly nowhere. It's currently stagnating in the Federalism & Fiscal Responsibility Select Committee, where it's likely to stay.

Gun rights advocates probably shouldn't worry much either, but they are. News of the bill prompted a flurry of posts in the conservative blogosphere. Red Alert Politics described the bill as an attack on the "380 sheriffs who have vowed to defend the constitutional right to bear arms." Glenn Beck's outlet, The Blaze, reminds us that "sheriffs are elected by the people, not appointed by bureaucrats" and suggests that Davis' bill could also be used to go after officials who refuse to enforce immigration laws. And the Washington Examiner, whose report from last week seems to have stoked the recent chatter, quotes an anonymous gun lobbyist who predicts Davis' bill could prompt a cascade of copycat bills in other states.

More likely is a slow death by committee, which isn't a bad thing. There are other ways of keeping chest-thumping sheriffs in line. It's called voting.