It often is said that the United States is nation of laws, not of people. That laws forged by the public and by elected representatives shield this nation from anarchy and ensure our country’s endurance.
During these politically polarized times, it is particularly essential that Americans cling to the notion that it is the law that provides the foundation upon which the United States is built, that our system of enforcement and courts and the separation of powers is what has provided the latticework for American exceptionalism. It also is essential for those in power to support that notion and serve as a bulwark against impulsiveness.
This comes to mind following a gun-rights meeting this month in Yelm. There, advocates decried Initiative 1639, which was passed by Washington voters last year to, among other things, raise the legal age for buying a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21. While citizens are encouraged to exercise their First Amendment rights of assembly and speech, it is important to take note of some of the incendiary rhetoric that was bandied about — and the failure of elected officials to provide the voice of reason.
According to The Seattle Times, some attendees at the meeting spoke of making a citizens’ arrest of state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who has advocated for strong gun control measures. Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza, on hand to answer questions, asserted that he had the power to empanel a militia, but that he would not do so at this time.
In truth, state law does not give sheriffs the power to swear in a militia. It does require them to “keep and preserve the peace … and quiet and suppress all affrays, riots, unlawful assemblies and insurrections.”