COLUMBIA, S.C. (Jan. 18, 2016) – A South Carolina bill would end state cooperation with all federal gun control laws, rendering them virtually toothless in practice within the state.
Fourteen Republican representatives introduced House Bill 4628 (H4628) on Jan. 12. The Second Amendment Preservation Act would prohibit the state or any of its political subdivisions from using or allocating public funds, personnel, or property to implement, regulate, or enforce any federal law, executive order, regulation, or rule relating to the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories.
This would withdraw all state cooperation from the implementation or enforcement of federal gun laws, past, present and future.
Unlike past efforts to protect the right to keep and bear arms in South Carolina, H4628 does not require any determination of constitutionality. It doesn’t attempt to block federal enforcement of its own laws, but instead simply directs all state agencies to simply stand down.
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.”
A partnership doesn’t work very well when one side stops working. By withdrawing all resources and participation in federal gun control schemes, the states can effectively bring them down.
H4628 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.”
H4628 was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving on to the full House for consideration.