Robert Wadman, criminal justice professor emeritus at Weber State University in Utah and a former police chief, told Kaste that law-enforcement officers must often use professional discretion, and may sometimes choose not to enforce a law for a good reason, but said he doesn't think publicly refusing to enforce a law, for likely political reasons, is defensible. "For me, questions of this nature should be answered by the courts — not the court of public opinion."
Former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack thinks the Washington sheriffs are within their rights. In the 1990s Mack successfully challenged a federal law that required state officers to do background checks on gun purchases, and now runs an organization called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association that encourages sheriffs to take a more active role in deciding which laws to enforce. "Sheriffs standing for freedom have the responsibility to interpose — it's the 'doctrine of interposition' — whenever anybody is trying to diminish or violate the individual rights of our counties," Mack told Kaste. It is unclear whether any of the Washington sheriffs are members of the organization.
Mirya Holman, an associate political science professor at Tulane University, said the "constitutional sheriff" notion is a product of political polarization between rural and urban areas, and noted that the Washington gun law was passed mostly because of liberal voters in Seattle. "Sheriffs are seeing laws being made potentially by voters in urban areas and feeling like they need to protect their population from these people who have very different attitudes about the way the world should be," Holman told Kaste.