OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (March 2, 2017) – An Oklahoma bill that would prohibit the use of state funds to promote gun control passed an important House committee today. Final passage of the bill would take a small step toward thwarting federal gun laws in the state.
Rep. Shawn Roberts (R) introduced House Bill 1803 (HB1803) on Feb. 6. as the House companions to Nathan Dahm’s (R) Senate Bill 65 (SB65). The legislation would prohibit public officers and employees from using public monies to promote gun control. Specifically, it would bar the expenditure of public funds for the production of gun control propaganda designed to support or defeat the enactment of legislation, an ordinance, rule, regulation or administrative action relating to gun control; for paying the salary or expenses of any grant or contract recipient if the purpose is to influence the enactment of gun control; or for advocating federal, state or local taxes relating to gun control.
Passage of HB1803 would take a small first step toward stopping the implementation of federal gun control in the state. By denying the advocates of gun control state money to advance their cause, it would hinder efforts to implement such laws.
Dahm said officials in higher education often lobby against all expansion of gun rights because they feel it will eventually lead to campus carry. With one of the largest budgets in the state, it is common for them to have their own lobbyists, and to hire contract lobbyists who work to defeat gun measures. Cities and counties sometimes lobby for more restrictive gun laws as well.
In a broader sense, passage of the bill would set the precedent that the state can control how it allocates its resources relating to the implementation and enforcement of gun control in Oklahoma.
HB1803 rests 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.”
In other words, states have absolute discretion on how they allocate public money.
HB1803 now moves to the House for further consideration.