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Constitutional authority questioned

To the Times of Ti:

I was pleased to see letters from Ms. Monique Weston and Mr. John Capek which addressed the current debate surrounding the New York SAFE act in a civil and respectful tone. In a debate that seems to be growing more bitter and hostile every day, their letters were a welcome breath of fresh air. Thanks to them and to the Times of Ti for its publication of the letters.

One particular comment by Mr. Capek deserves some further explanation though. In his letter, Mr. Capek he said that because of law enforcement officials’ oath to defend the Constitution, he believes that they have the “constitutional authority” to refuse to enforce the SAFE act. I’m not exactly sure what Mr. Capek meant by that, but no such constitutional authority exists.

The authority to review the constitutionality of a law rests with the courts and the Supreme Court above all, and not with citizens or other civil authorities.

The SAFE act will have its day in court, as it should. In the meantime, I think the notion that constitutional authority rests with law enforcement officials has some dangerous implications. Law enforcement officials are not empowered to pick and choose which laws they enforce based on their own readings of the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution tried to prevent that very thing from happening by keeping the power to enforce the law separate from the power to interpret the law and the Constitution.

Still, I do agree with Mr. Capek that individuals, including law enforcement and the soldier he mentioned in his letter, ought to exercise their own judgment and use their conscience, even if that means violating orders or a law. But those are acts of civil disobedience entered into on moral grounds and the basis of principle, not on any specified constitutional authority.

And so, if the SAFE act stays on the books and if it is upheld as constitutional, we should remember that the same Constitution that contains the Second Amendment establishes the court’s power to declare a law constitutional or not. And no one can have constitutional authority to break a constitutional law.

Sam Huntington, Dresden

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