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MSNBC gets it partly right on state resistance to federal gun laws

Last week, a big headline over at NBC News proclaimed, “Butt Out: State Legislatures Move to Nullify Federal Gun Laws.”

It was, oddly enough, a rather fair report on the situation, even though they got the modern history of nullification efforts wrong, and didn’t include some important information on our 2nd Amendment Preservation Act.

Here’s Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey, quoted in the piece:

Such bills, often titled the Second Amendment Preservation Act, usually say state officials cannot enforce federal gun laws or limit their ability to do so. Some bills seek to punish any state employees or elected officials who help federal officials.

“It’s basically saying, ‘Federal government, if you want to enforce federal firearms laws in the state of Arizona, you’re welcome to do it, but we won’t give you any assistance. So in other words, no state police help with (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) raids, no local law enforcement enforcing a federal gun law, none of that,” said Mike Maharrey, a spokesman for the Tenth Amendment Center, a for-profit nullification group based in California.

What NBC failed to report was that there are not two (as noted in the article), but three forms of gun control nullification measures. The first two were, in general, correctly reported by NBC:

The first type holds that federal laws do not apply to firearms manufactured and sold within a given state. These bills cite the Constitution’s interstate commerce clause to argue that the federal government has no power to regulate trade within states.

The other approach says gun regulation falls outside the scope of the federal government’s power, making it state territory.

The third approach, the one cited by Maharrey above, is what they used to describe the 2nd:

Such bills, often titled the Second Amendment Preservation Act, usually say state officials cannot enforce federal gun laws or limit their ability to do so. Some bills seek to punish any state employees or elected officials who help federal officials.

Here’s the difference between #2 and #3:

In the 2nd approach, the state is determining that the federal act is unconstitutional, and generally taking action to physically arrest federal agents attempting to do so. A vast majority of these bills have been little more than political posturing, with bills almost immediately killed by mainstream state political leadership unwilling to take such a step. And in the two cases where states did in fact pass legislation to include these kinds of sanctions, they have not been enforced. In other words, they’ve done nothing.

That’s why we’ve put together approach #3, a strategic path to get something concrete done. It’s based on a principle widely accepted in the legal community and even approved by the supreme court regularly from 1842 to 2012.

Applied to our model legislation, the 2nd Amendment Preservation Act, it simply says that the state will not expend any manpower or resources towards the enforcement of federal acts that violate the 2nd Amendment. This an important step, but a first one. It’s one that Judge Andrew Napolitano recently said would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible to enforce.”

Other than important omission, NBC didn’t do too bad of a job on this report.

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