Elkhart County sheriff defends gun rights rally comments

Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers, criticized in two newspaper editorials for his comments at a gun rights rally, defends himself.
Posted on May 8, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on May 8, 2013 at 1:57 p.m.

Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers, focus of criticism for his comments at a recent gun rights rally, says he’s on solid ground in refusing to enforce new laws that infringe on gun rights.

It’s a matter of upholding the U.S. and Indiana constitutions, per his oath of office as sheriff, he argued in a post Wednesday, May 8, on his Facebook page.

“Oath of office or blind enforcement? As for me, I will honor my oath of office,” Rogers said in the post.

Rogers’ April 28 comments have been singled out in two critical newspaper editorials by the South Bend Tribune and the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. During the South Bend rally, Rogers, a Republican, outspoken conservative and gun rights proponent, said he wouldn’t enforce what he sees as future infringements on the right to bear arms.

“I will not allow gun confiscation in my county and I will not enforce any additional anti-gun laws,” Rogers said to loud applause.

In response, the News-Sentinel in a May 1 editorial questioned the notion of refusing to enforce a law “because of its ideological underpinnings” or giving law enforcement officials reign to “pick and choose” which laws to enforce.

“A bad law should be struck down through the legislative process. A law of dubious constitutionality should be challenged in court. But while a law is on the books, it must be enforced,” the News-Sentinel editorial said.

The Tribune, in an editorial Wednesday, didn’t go as far, but still sounded a cautionary tone.

Since no legislation allowing gun confiscation is in the works “perhaps citizens have nothing to be worried about,” said the editorial. “Nothing except for the idea that a public official sworn to uphold the law instead talks about defying it.”

In his Facebook post, Rogers said there’s an incorrect assumption that law enforcement officials “are supposed to check our mind at the door and enforce any law regardless how unjust, oppressive or clearly unconstitutional a law is.” In fact, in the oath of office he took as sheriff, he said, he swears to “uphold and defend” the U.S. and Indiana constitutions.

“Nowhere in this oath does it require any law enforcement officer to enforce all laws,” wrote Rogers, a strong critic of federal government overreach. Rogers is active in a group formed to curtail such encroachments, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.

The oath, Rogers continued, is part of the system of checks and balances meant to safeguard government. “When every public servant takes a solemn oath, then our Constitution has built-in safeguards at all levels, not just at the legislative and judicial levels,” wrote Rogers.

He cited the example of Rosa Parks, the African-American woman famously arrested in 1955 for not giving up her seat on a public bus to a white person, an incident that fueled the civil rights movement. An officer versed in constitutional law could have refused to enforce the law calling for Parks’ arrest, Rogers indicated.

Instead of detaining Parks, the officer “could have offered her a ride home, praising her for her bravery for not giving up her seat, and essentially refusing to enforce an unjust and oppressive law,” Rogers wrote.

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