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Advocate promises ‘banquet’ for sheriffs challenging fed gun push

Even as states like New York, Connecticut and Maryland pass new gun restrictions in the wake of December's Newtown, Conn., shooting rampage, more states have actually passed legislation to weaken existing gun laws, and some local law enforcement officials have said they'll refuse to enforce new gun laws or proposed restrictions that could come from the federal government.

That's just fine with Larry Pratt, the executive director of the gun rights group Gun Owners of America.

He welcomed the idea of a local sheriff defying federal agents who try to come in and enforce new gun controls, saying that "we would immediately fly out and have a banquet in his honor."

"There's a misconception in our time that the court somehow is the arbiter of what is constitutional. That's not true," Mr. Pratt said during a Friday taping of C-SPAN's "Newsmakers." "Every official that raises their right hand and says they're going to adhere to the Constitution, seek to protect it to the best of their abilities, so help me God, that's something that they're all obligated to do and ultimately, it's the voters who are going to decide, 'Did that sheriff do the right thing by arresting that federal agent, or did that federal agent do the right thing by trying to go in and grab somebody's guns?' And if the sheriff gets re-elected, it doesn't matter what the court says."

In Colorado, for example, Weld County Sheriff John Cooke has said he won't enforce new gun regulations passed by the state legislature.

The Obama administration and gun-control advocates have consistently said that no legislation being proposed at the federal level would result in gun confiscations. But gun-rights advocates argue that measures like universal background checks on gun sales constitute a slippery slope toward a national gun registry — something currently prohibited under federal law.

Forty-eight percent of American voters say that the government could use information from a universal background check system to confiscate legally-owned firearms, compared to 38 percent who say it will not, according to a Quinnipiac poll released this week.

President Obama, at a stop in Denver Wednesday, tried to put that notion to rest.

"If there are any folks who are out there right now who are gun owners, and you've been hearing that somehow somebody is taking away your guns, get the facts," he said. "We're not proposing a gun registration system; we're proposing background checks for criminals."

By defying federal enforcement of a law he believes to be unconstitutional, a sheriff would just be doing his duty, Mr. Pratt argued.

"And so he's not stepping outside of the limits that are placed on him by the Constitution, and if there's a contravening law, he's not stepping outside, he's actually interposing himself between illegitimate authority, say, at the federal level, and the authority vested in him by the voters of his county," Mr. Pratt said.

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