Johnson County plans to ignore possible federal gun law

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If federal lawmakers pass an assault weapons ban, one local community wants police here to ignore it.

Johnson County commissioners have one more vote to make a new ordinance official that would ask the sheriff to defy any future federal weapons bans.

The fear over what guns you can or can't buy, what weapons you may or may not be able to shoot in the future, has people fired up at the feds. That's why Gary Cahill supports a move by commissioners in Johnson County to take a stand for Second Amendment rights.

"I believe in local government first. Federal government's getting a little out of hand it seems like these days," Cahill said.

Commissioners this week voted in favor of passing an ordinance to defy any future federal bans on weapons.

"I'm ready to say enough's enough. We should have the right to own whatever weapon we want," said Johnson County Commissioner Ron West. "The federal government needs to back off a little bit and give us some breathing room."

The county ordinance, up for a final vote later this month, essentially tells the sheriff to ignore any federal restrictions on guns, ammo or assault weapons. It says if lawmakers pass a ban, Johnson County won't enforce it.

"I applaud them for it. We gotta hang onto what we got," Cahill said.

But are the commissioners' actions even legal? Would this kind of ordinance holdup in court?

Indiana University Constitutional law professor David Orentlicher says it depends on the wording.

"What the local officials can do is to refuse to cooperate with the federal government when the federal government wants to enforce federal law. So they can refuse to participate. They can't interfere with federal law enforcement officials. But they can't stand in the schoolhouse door and block the federal government when it's trying to enforce federal law," Orentlicher said.

Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox has said he works for the voters, not the commissioners, and wouldn't necessarily ignore changes to federal law. Commissioners, though, say their actions send a strong message about preserving personal freedom and local control.

"It's about America. It's about Americans. It's a great country," West said.

Johnson County isn't the only one to consider such a proposal. Franklin County passed a similar ordinance earlier this year, along with several communities across the country.

Commissioners in Johnson County take a final vote on the issue at their meeting on March 25.