It is an appalling day when our elected officials do not understand basic principles of law.
No, I am not commenting on the disarray in Washington. The issue of concern is the Wilkes County commissioners’ obvious and inattentive attempts at understanding legal authority and necessity: The “Resolution Authorizing Protection of Second Amendment Rights in Wilkes County,” approved by the commissoners on Jan. 7.
The Wilkes County commissioners are seemingly unaware of where they stand on the legislative totem pole. (Hint: It is quite low.) In our “republic,” to use County Commissioner Eddie Settle’s words, the foremost legislative authority is the U.S. Congress. It is tasked with drafting legislation in order to govern the whole of the nation.
Below the U.S. Congress are the respective legislative branches of each state. For example, the N.C. General Assembly, which has the role of drafting legislation to govern the whole of the state. Lastly, citizens are left to county and city commissioners. These commissioners are tasked with solely governing their respective jurisdictions.
This seemingly legitimizes the necessity of quickly passing the county commissioners’ “Resolution Authorizing Protection of Second Amendment Rights in Wilkes County” by allowing residents of Wilkes to safely possess unrestricted firearms at all times regardless – and while even going so far as allowing a sworn officer of the law to commit dereliction of duty, right? Wrong.
Article 6, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution clearly states: “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.”
This is known as the Supremacy Clause, which gives ultimate power to the legislative branch of the U.S. government. This means any international treaty, congressional resolution or piece of legislation passed must be observed at all levels of government.
The second part of Article 6, Section 2 states: “and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” This means that regardless of state law or county ordinance, federal law still reigns supreme. The usage of “to the contrary notwithstanding” means that anything contradictory to the clause, such as the “Resolution Authorizing Protection of Second Amendment Rights in Wilkes County,” would become ineffective and voided by Federal Law.
I am also puzzled as to why our commissioners, who seem to flaunt the power of the Constitution, also seem to pick and choose which pieces apply. This is shown by their empty protection of the Second Amendment while seemingly forgetting about Article 6, Section 2. While the commissioners are not only lackadaisical and negligent in their rudimentary attempt to understand, arguably, the most important document in American history, they further insult their constituency by straying from their core conservative ideology of small government and opposition to legislative overreach.
The commissioners’ blatant disrespect and irresponsibility was also shown through their toothless attempt at legislating a non-issue when the resolution “recognizes the role of reasonable governmental oversight of the firearms trade and the ability of the government to restrict possession of firearms from those who have committed crimes and those with mental illness.”
While the resolution sounds nice, the commissioners are only regurgitating previously passed laws in a futile attempt to sway public support for a group that has notably done nothing of importance. As Settle stated in the commissioners’ meeting. “We have taken action twice (regarding gun rights) since this board has been together in the last seven years.”
While I, like many other citizens in Wilkes appreciate and cherish the ability to own firearms, we must ask ourselves if we will continue allowing elected officials to promote empty attempts at legislation, for strictly political purposes, and neglect their duties?
With no imminent threat in Congress or the General Assembly, we sat idly as these commissioners approved a resolution that would wholly change nothing or protect our Second Amendment rights while insinuating Wilkes County would go rogue if directed by Congress or the General Assembly.
This is shown in both Commissioner Gary Blevins’ statement and Wilkes Sheriff Chris Shew’s response. Blevins stated during the Jan. 7 meeting, “I don’t think we’ve got anything to worry about as long as Chris Shew is Wilkes sheriff. He’s not going to take anyone’s guns.” Shew responded, “I don’t know anybody who has any guns.” Is this the leadership we want — leadership that issues political statements to manipulate voters and leadership that clears other elected officials from doing their duty? Wilkes deserves better than this, we deserve better than this and you deserve better than this.
J. DAVID SIMMONS,