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“Oath Keepers” Alive In Arizona: Pushes Unconstitutional Bill Restricting Federal Law Enforcement

Arizona’s county sherriff’s are not exactly known for setting the standard for effective law enforcement and loyalty to the Constitution — indeed, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is currently under federal investigation for widespread mistreatment of Latinos and other violations of the law. Nevertheless, an Arizona senate committee just approved a unconstitutional billwhich would require federal law enforcement officers to provide advance notice to Arpaio and his fellow sheriffs before taking action in their counties:

A Senate panel voted Thursday to fire a warning shot of sorts over the heads of federal law enforcement agencies: Don’t come around here unless you get local OK.

The legislation, crafted by Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, would require employees of those agencies to first notify the sheriff of the county “before taking any official law enforcement action in a county in this state.”

The only exception would be if the notification would impede the federal officer’s duties. But even then, HB 2434 has a requirement to notify the sheriff “as soon as practicable after taking the action.”

The Constitution simply does not allow states to order federal officials to do anything. Under our Constitution, federal law is “the supreme law of the land,” so when Congress enacts an otherwise valid federal law and empowers federal officers to enforce it, the states have no power whatsoever to limit that enforcement or place conditions on it.

Disturbingly, the bill may also be connected to a radical anti-government group known as the “Oath Keepers.” The Oath Keepers is a right-wing group that pushes local law enforcement to pledge to defy federal “orders” the Oath Keepers believe are unconstitutional. Their website is riddled with paranoid rhetoric about government officials “disarm[ing] the American people,” “confiscat[ing] the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies,” and “blockad[ing] American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.” In early 2008, the Oath Keepers’ founder warned that a “dominatrix-in-chief” named “Hitlery Clinton” would impose a police state on America and shoot all resisters. After Democratic primary voters chose President Obama over Clinton, the Oath Keepers simply rewrote their paranoid fantasy to include a taller, African-American lead. Rep. Gowan, the lead sponsor of this bill, is listed as a member of the Tucson Oath Keepers on their Meetup page.

So, while merely notifying local law enforcement of federal actions may seem like a minor imposition, the bill makes sense in the context of a broader Oath Keeper agenda, because it gives local sherriffs advance notice of which federal actions they wish to defy.


By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, March 16, 2012

March 17, 2012 - Posted by | Arizona, Constitution | , , , , , , ,


  1. The Rule of Law is often overlooked and misunderstood when constitutional issues arise. A general misconception is a law is constitutional if Congress passes a bill and the president signs the bill into law, or the Supreme Court of the United States upholds a laws constitutionality. Not only is this wrong, but it is inherently dangerous to our constitutional republic, limited government and federalism, and the protection of man’s natural rights and liberty.

    The Rule of Law is defined as follows: “Individuals, persons and government shall submit to, obey and be regulated by law, and not arbitrary action by an individual or group of individuals” [i]. In other words, nobody is above the law, nor can anybody act outside the constraints established under the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law is incorporated in the Constitution of the United States.

    The Rule of Law embodies certain indispensable characteristics which are necessary and proper in a government of laws (as opposed to a government of men). Those indispensable characteristics are the supremacy of law and justice. The absence of either supremacy of law or justice represents a fatal flaw in our form of government.

    Supremacy of Law requires both citizens and government to be subject to known and standing laws. By subjugating government to a set of known and standing laws, the Rule of Law constrains government bureaucrats and political rulers’ arbitrary power over the citizenry. Today, political expediency and ideology result in a myriad of laws subjugating citizens to political will, which ultimately violates the Rule of Law.

    People conflate the supremacy clause, found in Article VI of the Constitution, with Supremacy of Law. Many people believe the supremacy clause states that the federal government is supreme in all matters of law. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Such wishful thinking is the rational basis used to usurp power otherwise not granted to the federal government in the Constitution. The key provision of the supremacy clause is “which shall be made in Pursuance thereof.”

    Limitations on arbitrary power were incorporated into the Constitution under Article I, Section VIII. This section enumerated the powers ceded by the several states to the federal government. The Constitution established a federal government with limited powers. The several states created the Constitution, ratified the Constitution, and are the ultimate authority required to amend the Constitution.

    After years of despotic rule under the British Crown and fighting a war of independence, it is inconceivable that the framers would create and establish a system of government under the Constitution which granted unlimited power and authority to the federal government. For the federal government to be supreme in all matters of law raises the following questions:

    Why did the framers labor to define and enumerate the powers ceded to Congress under Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution?

    By default, all acts of Congress would be supreme, therefore rendering most of the Constitution meaningless. There would be absolutely no limits on congressional power and authority. Why would the colonies fight a war of independence to establish a new system of government capable of subjugating the people to laws under a new tyrant?

    Supremacy of Law doesn’t support any conclusion as to whether the federal government is supreme over state governments or vice-versa. The proper interpretation is that those powers reserved to the states and those powers delegated to the federal government must be adhered to because it is stated in the Constitution, and the Rule of Law embodies supremacy of law.

    Likewise, the supremacy clause is applicable only to those powers ceded to the federal government. If Congress passes an act within the limited powers ceded to it, then the law is binding and supreme over any state law or state constitution. This is what “shall be made in Pursuance thereof” means. Otherwise, the law is not binding and, therefore, not supreme law.



    Comment by R. J Black | March 17, 2012 | Reply

    • Therein lies the problem..your 10th paragraph, 2nd sentence, “The proper interpretation is”.


      Comment by raemd95 | March 17, 2012 | Reply

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