Moves to tighten gun laws in the US are facing a backlash from sheriffs in rural communities who are refusing to uphold new restrictions by declaring their counties "Second Amendment Sanctuaries".
The wave of mass shootings, notably at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 pupils and staff were killed last February and two survivors committed suicide this week, has prompted state legislatures to pass a raft of measures.
New laws have included including compulsory background checks, a ban on assault weapons and raising the minimum age for gun ownership.
With Democrats making sweeping gains at local level in last year’s mid-term elections, the pace of new legislation has intensified.
Nevada is set to debate a comprehensive firearms control bill which will make modifying a weapon a criminal offence and allow localities to create "gun free" zones.
Arizona and Arkansas are also currently considering "red flag" bills which would allow weapons to be confiscated from owners who are considered dangerous.
Similar measures in other states have run into opposition from sheriffs who are bluntly refusing to enforce the new laws, which they argue are unconstitutional.
There has also been opposition from local county commissioners are passing "Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinances" – effectively mirroring the tactics used by Democrats to protect undocumented immigrants targeted by Donald Trump in "Sanctuary Cities".
According to one estimate, there are around 3,000 elected sheriffs in the USA, who are largely responsible for law enforcement in rural areas
Richard Mack, who heads the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, predicted the revolt will grow. "There will be more sheriffs doing this: if they don’t, they won’t get re-elected."
The key battleground is New Mexico where governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill enforcing background checks and other curbs.
Her initiative was greeted with a furious response, with 25 of the state’s 33 counties backing sheriffs who refuse to enforce the law.
Rebel sheriffs include Tony Mace of Cibola County, who told The Telegraph: "The gist of this is we are trying to protect people’s constitutional rights.
"If we are not prepared to protect somebody’s constitutional rights, what is next? They are agenda-driven by anti-gun people like Mike Bloomberg and groups like Everytown for Gun Safety.
Mass shootings have become more frequent in the US
"It’s happening across the nation. Just because something is good for California, it doesn’t mean it is good for New Mexico. We are a rural state with a hunting heritage.
"We are elected by the people and we swore an oath to protect the constitution and that is what we are doing. We answer to the people who voted us into office, that’s it.
"We listen to our citizens and not the socialist agenda crowd. They want to seize people’s firearms without a warrant."
Similar sheriffs’ protests have been reported in other states – including Washington, Colorado, Nevada and Illinois.
The protests reflect the underlying gulf between rural areas which are hostile to gun control and cities where many voters support new laws.
The rebel sheriffs were accused of acting illegally by state officials like Colorado’s attorney-general, Bob Weiser. "The right thing to do for a sheriff who says ‘I can’t follow the law’ is to resign," he said.
Max Semis, spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, added: "The role of these officers is to enforce the law, not to interpret it. It’s not their job to decide whether or not a law is constitutional.
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"The momentum is behind the gun violence prevention movement. These are common-sense measures which are widely supported by the American public."