JACKSON, Miss. (Jan. 18, 2017) – A bill filed in the Mississippi Senate would build on the foundation of legislation signed into law last year and block state enforcement of future federal gun control regulations in the state.
Last year, Gov. Phil Bryant signed legislation into law that removed conceal carry licensing requirements, allowing Mississippians to carry concealed firearms without a permit. The law also set the foundation to reject and end new federal gun control regulations and executive orders in the state.
No federal executive order, agency order, law not enrolled by the United States Congress and signed by the President of the United States, rule, regulation or administrative interpretation of a law or statute issued, enacted or promulgated after July 1, 2016, that violates the United States Constitution or the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 shall be enforced or ordered to be enforced by any official, agent or employee of this state or a political subdivision thereof.
A bill introduced for the 2017 session would build on this foundation and prohibit specific state cooperation with enforcement of future federal gun control laws.
Sen. Chris McDaniel introduced Senate Bill 2204 (SB2204) on Jan. 13. The legislation would bar any state agency, department or political subdivision of the state, and their employees, from planning, implementing, assisting with, participating in, enabling or cooperating with “any federal law, rule, regulation or order created or effective on or after January 1, 2017, if the law, rule, regulation or order attempts to:
(a) Ban or restrict ownership of a semiautomatic firearm or any magazine of a firearm;
(b) Require any firearm, magazine or other firearm accessory to be registered in any manner; or
(c) Confiscate a firearm, magazine or other firearm accessory from law-abiding Mississippi citizens.
SB2204 would effectuate the law passed last year by defining specific acts the state must refuse to enforce.
Rep. Mark Formby (R) introduced a bill in the House on the same day that would take a smaller step building the foundation set last year. HB626 would subject state or local government employees to criminal prosecution if they “knowingly and willfully ordering any action to enforce an executive order, agency order, law that is not enrolled by the United States Congress and signed by the President of the United States, or rule, regulation or administrative interpretation of a law or statute issued, enacted or promulgated after July 1, 2017, if such action would be contrary to Section 12, Article 3, Mississippi Constitution of 1890.”
This legislation would create criminal penalties for state employees enforcing federal gun control in violation of the law established in 2016, but would still require some mechanism to determine specifically which federal acts violate the state constitution before noncompliance would begin.
SB2172, sponsored by Sen. Michael Watson (R), would have a similar effect.
Some gun rights supporters argue that such a measure is “unnecessary” because it addresses a nonexistent problem with a Republican Congress and an NRA-backed president.
“While we’re not expecting any new gun control to come from the federal government in the next few years, there’s no guarantee that we won’t see another Obama-style president in the near future, hell-bent on attacking the right to keep and bear arms,” Boldin said.
Passage of SB2204 would cement measures in place should a future Congress or presidential administration attempt to implement new gun control programs, and it sets the foundation to address current unconstitutional violations of the Second Amendment.
“This bill would act as an essential firewall for the future, and would also set the foundation for further action by Mississippi against current federal gun control,” Boldin said.
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 effectively 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. 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.”
SB2204 and the law passed last year that creates the foundation rest 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.”
SB2204 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee (Div. A). It will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.