27, 2007; Sheriff Mack Ten Year
March 30, 1981, John Hinckley shot President Reagan and severely wounded his
press secretary, James Brady. Richard Mack was watching the news about all this
from his office in the Provo, Utah
Police Station where he had just started his career in law enforcement. This
was the first time he had really heard of James Brady, and 15 years later he
would find himself on opposite sides of a lawsuit sitting next to James Brady
in the United States Supreme Court.
Mack was raised in Safford,
Arizona. He graduated from BYU
and stayed in Provo
as a policeman for about 11 years. He left a promising career to move back to Arizona and run for Graham County
sheriff. He was elected in 1988 and again in 1992. In 1993 Bill Clinton signed
the Brady Bill (named for James Brady) into law and the wheels of Sheriff
Mack's lawsuit opposing the Brady Bill began to turn.
Brady Bill was a federal law which required the local Sheriff to conduct
background checks on all of Sheriff Mack’s constituents who wished to purchase
a handgun. The sheriff was responsible for all costs associated with the
checks, keeping files on each purchase and notifying the gun shops and
customers of his findings. Sheriff Mack told me that the most offensive portion
of this legislation was that the bill contained a provision that threatened to
arrest "anyone who knowingly failed to comply." Well, sheriff Mack
intended to do just that; he would not comply and instead filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court
in Tucson to
have the Brady Bill ruled unconstitutional.
the time, he was the only sheriff in the entire country taking such action. He
made the decision alone, except for consulting with his wife. He told her that
this would probably be very unpopular and that this type of thing could cost
them dearly; including everything they owned. She gave him her full support,
but it did as Mack had feared, he lost his home, his job and his career in law
lawsuit was filed the very day the Brady Bill took effect, February 28, 1994.
Approximately five weeks later another sheriff from Montana filed the same suit there.
Ultimately, six other sheriffs joined the lawsuit that Sheriff Mack started,
which made a total of seven; seven out of 3020.
The suit contended that the
federal government had no authority or jurisdiction to compel or force any
sheriff in the United States
to comply with any mandate, funded or not. Sheriff Mack
also objected to being forced to participate in a federal gun control scheme,
but the suit had no standing on Second Amendment grounds. All the District
Court cases were successful, with each sheriff prevailing except the case filed
by a Texas
sheriff. Losing a court case in Texas
about guns and state sovereignty is of interest.
government of course, appealed and Sheriff Mack and Sheriff Printz (Montana) headed to the Ninth Circuit court in San Francisco. They had
just met for the first time a few weeks earlier as guests on the Phil Donahue
Show. The case in San Francisco did not go well
and this court, the most overturned court in the United States, dealt the sheriffs a
crushing defeat. However, the Texas
sheriff prevailed in the Fifth Circuit and this is exactly what Mack had hoped
for; conflicting rulings from the Circuit courts. This all but guaranteed that
the U S Supreme Court would have to take the case to settle the opposite
rulings from the Circuit courts.
few months later the miracle was finally announced; Mack v. USA would be
heard by the Supreme Court on December 4, 1996. Mack had just lost his bid for
re-election a couple of months prior. He was extremely disappointed, but not
surprised. Appearing before the U S
Supreme Court was an amazing and awesome experience. He spoke briefly with
James Brady. He was very friendly and told Sheriff Mack that he admired him for
fighting for what he believed in. After the hearing Sarah Brady called Mack and
Printz "rogue sheriffs."
leaving the sheriff's office Mack took a job teaching high school government.
He enjoyed it and it kept him busy while he waited for the Supreme Court's
decision. On weekends he still made some appearances around the country
speaking at freedom rallies. Then after six and a half months of waiting, CBS
news called Mack at home on June 25th and informed him that the decision would
probably be announced on the 26th or the 27th. They asked him to go to a hotel
in Tucson so
they could interview him as soon as the decision was published. He did as they
requested. Then on Friday morning at about 7:30 a.m., June 27, 1997, CBS News
called Sheriff Mack and congratulated him on his victory. The United States
Supreme Court ruled in favor of the sheriffs and told the federal government,
i.e., the Clinton
administration, that it could not compel the states or the states' officers to
administer a federal regulatory program. Justice Scalia delivered the decision
for the majority, which was a tenuous 5-4 split.
case has appeared in history and government text books and it was covered by
every major news agency in this country.
The lamentable issue here is the real impact this victory should have
had never happened. The Clinton White House said the decision was meaningless
and Janet Reno quickly downplayed it stating that it would change nothing. The
truth of the matter is Mack's case changed history. There were actually five
Brady bills scheduled for Congress' promulgation, each one to be passed one
year after the other. Brady bill two was introduced just two months after
Sheriff Mack filed his lawsuit by Senator
Moynihan. It failed in committee and Brady bills 3, 4, and 5 were never even
mentioned. Sarah Brady said at the signing of the first Brady bill that this
"was only the beginning." If the rest of her Brady bills had been
passed the Second
Amendment would have been completely gutted and gun shows would have been a
thing of the past. Mack's case had a great deal to do with stopping this. He
fought the Clintons, the Bradys, Handgun Control Inc. and countless others.
He received hate mail and threats and ironically had a window shot out of his
mini-van. On the other hand, he is the only person in history to have received
the top law awards from the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America,
Amendment Foundation, the Firearms Industry of America, and the Local Sovereignty
Coalition. This battle was a real roller coaster ride for this small town
sheriff. It cost him a lot and it brought him a great deal of satisfaction.
frustrates me to this day is the fact that state legislatures ignore the door
that this case opened for them to keep the feds in DC. My other concern is that
Congress violates his ruling from the Supremes on pretty much a daily basis.
Why would we expect anything else from them? They violate the rest of the
Constitution as a matter of routine also.” Mack said.
Mack was a sheriff who walked tall. He stood against political correctness and
made a difference for all of us. He gave us something to believe in. His case
was extremely powerful. It re-established the lines between DC and local
favorite quote from the ruling made this entire battle and ordeal completely
worthwhile: "But the Constitution protects us from our own best
intentions. It divides power among sovereigns and among branches of government
precisely so that we may resist the temptation to concentrate power in one
location, as an expedient solution to the crisis of the day." Now if our
senators and representatives would follow this ruling? Thank you Sheriff Mack
and happy anniversary!
is now 10 years later and Mack has sent a letter to Wisconsin Gunowners that
were upset about increased background checks of the federal mandate that
required access to mental records (unfunded mandates) first step to submitting
to mental evaluation to purchase a firearm. “State legislatures are not subject
to federal direction” NRA supported the Mack V. Brady litigation to the tune of
almost half a million dollars and now is supporting federal legislation (HR
2640) that rips at the heart of this
Is the NRA just trying to fit in to political correctness or is there another agenda they are supporting? Sarah Brady put out a
statement saying that this bill was a victory for gun control and was shocked
that the NRA was supporting this.
The NRA’s cooperation with Congresswoman
McCarthy and Senator Shumer isn’t a surprise to those of us that have been
witness to the NRA’s authoring hand of gun control legislation, A+ endorsements
of legislators that vote for legislation like the Assault Weapons Ban, provide
cover for the passage of the Brady Bill in the first place and abuse the gun
owner and their vote over and over.
Gun Control crowd is very happy that this is a step towards requiring a mental
health screening before obtaining a firearm.” (Reporter Comment: …and the
government gets to determine what is and is not proper mental health?) “I’m praying for the day that the NRA and
Congress respect and follow the United States Constitution.” Richard Mack.
celebrate the 10th anniversary of his Supreme Court victory Fmr. Sheriff
Richard Mack will be honored at the Tucson Breakfast Club June 30th (Sat.)
520-419-4364 Mark Spear for details.
Mack v Brady suit was directed at the Clinton Administration (The only
non-sexually oriented lawsuit that I know of) but with the Bush admin in office
now, the NRA has become the Gun Control darling of a Fascist Regime bent on
total domination of an increasingly resistant population. And I was paying very
close attention during those years in the mid 90’s when I met Sheriff Richard
Mack while he was still Sheriff of Graham County. It was Sheriff Mack that
confirmed for us the existence of “Project Lead” we had heard about through
Maricopa County Sheriff Department Investigators. Sheriff Mack provided us the
forms for this Clinton Administration effort to register every unregistered
firearm in the nation that they could during any contact an individual had with
law enforcement. This is when individuals were beginning to be asked if they
had a firearm while being pulled over for traffic stops or any other contact
with an officer. The form was adapted from the form used to track firearms
involved in a crime and were traced by investigators of a crime. The forms now
include providing the information of all of the people traveling with the
person detained and even the license plates of other cars that might be
associated with the person in contact with the law enforcement officer. This
came to our attention because an officer under Maricopa County Sheriff Joe
Arpaio was very concerned about what they saw happening.
may remember when Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced that no Sheriff employee was to
ever speak to the media again and that his office would be the sole media
contact. This was a direct result of our published investigation into “Project
Lead” conducted by the BATF in Washington that
was originally to be test marketed in other large cities that did not include
any in Arizona.
It was Sheriff Arpaio that invited the Federal Government here and Sheriff
Richard Mack’s opposition to such gun control caused a rift between the two
Sheriffs that was more about who stealing Arpaio’s spotlight than the
discussion of abuses of Federal Power and a Sheriff’s duty to use their powers
as the _highest_ ranking law enforcement in their jurisdictions to protect the
people from such abuses. This is what Sheriff Richard Mack did while Sheriff
Arpaio has pursued an entirely different path.
of the Supreme Court’s decision is included to inform you of what should have
been embraced by our government officials in what is suppose to be a Constitutional Republic. But what I fear Richard Mack’s
greatest contribution to freedom has been, is that he has demonstrated just how
overdue we are for a full blown revolution between the ears. It’s time we all
recognize just how bad thing really are.
separation of the two spheres is one of the Constitution's structural
protections of liberty. "Just as the separation and independence of the
coordinate branches of the Federal Government serve to prevent the accumulation
of excessive power in any one branch, a healthy balance of power between the
States and the Federal Government will reduce the risk of tyranny and abuse
from either front." Gregory, supra, at 458.
To quote Madison once again:
the compound republic
of America, the power
surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments,
and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate
departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The
different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will
be controlled by itself." The Federalist No. 51, at 323.
of the Constitution is concerned with setting forth the form of our government,
and the courts have traditionally invalidated measures deviating from that
form. The result may appear `formalistic' in a given case to partisans of the
measure at issue, because such measures are typically the product of the era's
perceived necessity. But the Constitution protects us from our own best
intentions: It divides power among sovereigns and among branches of government
precisely so that we may resist the temptation to concentrate power in one
location as an expedient solution to the crisis of the day." Id., at 187.
held in New York
that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory
program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by
conscripting the State's officers directly. The Federal Government may neither
issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor
command the States' officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to
administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether
policymaking is involved, and no case by case weighing of the burdens or benefits
is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our
constitutional system of dual sovereignty. Accordingly, the judgment of the
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is reversed.
Mack was inducted into the NRA Hall of Fame 1994 and was the NRA’s Law
Enforcement officer of the year 1994. His books: “From my Cold Dead Fingers –
Why America Needs Guns” 1995 republished and updated after SCOTUS Victory in
2000 – “Vicki, Sam and America
– How the Government killed all Three” - 2003.