MONTGOMERY, Ala. (April 13, 2016) – An Alabama House committee passed a bill that would take the first step toward blocking federal gun control in the Yellowhammer State.
Rep. Ed Henry (R-Decatur) introduced House Bill 437 (HB437) on March 17. The legislation asserts all federal acts, laws, orders, rules, or regulations regarding firearms constitute a “violation of the Second Amendment as determined by the Alabama state courts, the legislature, and the governor.”
It goes on to declare all such measures “invalid in this state,” and that they “shall not be recognized by this state, are specifically rejected by this state, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in this state.”
Finally HB437 requires the state legislature to “adopt and enact any and all measures as may be necessary to prevent the enforcement of any federal acts, laws, orders, rules, or regulations in violation of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee passed HB437 with a favorable report.
While alone, passage of this legislation would not end federal gun control in Alabama, HB437 sets the stage for further steps to actually stop enforcement of such laws in the state. It would make it the duty of all three branches of the state government to determine the constitutionality of any federal gun control.
More importantly, it would task the legislature to take action to prevent the enforcement of such measures. With such a mandate codified into state law, it would pave the way to end all state cooperation with the enforcement of federal gun laws. This would mean passing a law barring the use of state resources for enforcing federal acts related to firearms, and prohibiting state employees in their official capacity, from assisting in such enforcement.
Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” represents an extremely effective method to bring down federal gun control measures because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from the states.
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed. In a televised discussion on the issue, he noted that a single state taking this step would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.
The federal government relies heavily on state cooperation to implement and enforce almost all of its laws, regulations and acts – including gun laws. By simply withdrawing this necessary cooperation, states can stop many federal actions in effect. As noted by the National Governor’s Association during the partial government shutdown of 2013, “states are partners with the federal government on most federal programs.”
“Partnerships don’t work too well when half the team quits,” said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. “By withdrawing all resources and participation in federal gun control schemes, the states can effectively bring them down.”
Louisiana gun-rights activist Trevor Ray put it this way in a comment on Facebook, “While the FBI/ATF can still operate business as usual, they couldn’t effectively investigate and enforce these laws without the local/state authorities handling most of the legwork and logistics, they’re usually just the purse strings. Well done.”
While some might question whether the state can legitimately declare federal gun control unconstitutional.The original Constitution clearly leaves that authority to the state. But modern jurisprudence diverges significantly from the Constitution.
Nevertheless, there is no question that the state can refuse to cooperate with the implementation and enforcement of federal gun law. This authority on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program.
The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on four Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. US serves as the cornerstone.
“We 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 States’ 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 policy making 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.”
HB437 will now move on to the full House for further consideration.