The National Rifle Association's media arm is defending a Maryland sheriff who warned that the enforcement of gun laws could lead to a civil war between his county and the federal government.
Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis made national headlines in September after telling a local news station, “As long as I'm the sheriff in this county, I will not allow the federal government to come in here and strip my citizens of their right to bear arms. I can tell you this, if they attempt to do that, it would be an all-out civil war, no question about it.”
According to USA Today, Lewis made similar comments to a Delaware NBC affiliate, warning of a civil war with the federal government over the enforcement of a hypothetical ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
In response to Lewis' comments, gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) launched a petition calling for the revocation of Lewis' Maryland Police Training Commission certification. According to CSGV, “It is difficult to see how a law enforcement officer who is threatening to wage war with the United States government meets any recognized standards of public service. In the wake of his threatening comments, Sheriff Lewis should not be given the responsibility of training law enforcement officers in Maryland.”
The NRA's media arm, NRA News, responded to CSGV's petition, terming it “pathetic” and downplaying the inflammatory nature of Lewis' comments.
NRA News host Cam Edwards claimed that CSGV was trying to “silence” Lewis “because of the sheriff speaking up the way he has.” Edwards also offered a two-fold defense of Lewis' civil war comments that sought to downplay their nature.
Edwards argued that Lewis' comment could only be interpreted as a threat of violence if CSGV believes “the federal government is in fact planning to come into the county to strip citizens of their right to bear arms”:
EDWARDS: If you heard the actual quote you know that the sheriff wasn't threatening violence. The only way that the sheriff would have been threatening violence is if [CSGV director of communications] Ladd Everitt believes that the federal government is in fact planning to come into the county to strip citizens of their right to bear arms. I'm not quite sure that Ladd Everitt is willing to go that far on the record, but that was the response again by Sheriff Lewis is if the federal government were to try to do that what they would find is that I would not let them.
In fact, NRA does claim, ad nauseum, that gun owners will -- at some unspecified future date -- be subject to a federal government conspiracy led by the Obama administration to confiscate privately held firearms.
Edwards' second defense of Lewis is that the sheriff's mention of a civil war with the federal government is merely tantamount to Lewis saying that he “would stand up for” citizens of his county in the event that “the federal government were to come in and try to take away the rights of the residents.” This statement downplays the far right-wing insurrectionist mindset that posits the Second Amendment enshrines a right for a group of citizens to violently overthrow the federal government if they decide it has become tyrannical.
Lewis is a vocal critic of gun regulations enacted in Maryland in 2013 in response to the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He is also a member of extremist organization Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, and reportedly attended the group's 2014 meeting. The group ascribes to the discredited theory that the county sheriff is the ultimate legal authority in the United States. The group's leader, Richard Mack, made headlines for claiming he and other supporters of lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy “were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front” in case violence broke out during an April standoff between Bundy supporters and federal law enforcement.
From the October 8 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company on the Sportsman Channel: