NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mar. 25, 2015) – While many gun rights activists focus their resources on federal court cases to stop states from enacting gun control measures, a bill passed by an important Tennessee state House subcommittee today flips things around by using the state to address federal gun control.
Introduced by Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver and Sen. Richard Briggs, House Bill 1341 (HB1341) and Senate Bill 1110 (SB1110), prohibit the state from carrying Uncle Sam’s water by implementing or enforcing federal gun “laws,” rules, regulations and orders that are contrary to the Tennessee state constitution.
Today, the House Civil Justice Subcommittee passed HB1341 to the full Committee by a vote of 4-2.
“I’m from the cut that there is no need for Washington D.C. to be the end all and be all with regards to the regulatory world,” said Weaver. “We should respect our 10th Amendment and shift the power back to the states and that’s what House Bill 1341 does.”
If passed into law, no Tennessee state or local public funds, personnel or property will be allowed for the “implementation, regulation, or enforcement of any federal law, executive order, rule or regulation regulating the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories” if such use “would result in the violation of Tennessee statutory or common law or the Constitution of Tennessee.”
“With state and local law enforcement often carrying up to 80% of more of the enforcement load of federal gun control measures, this would put a serious kibosh on anything new from Congress, the President or the ATF,” said Scott Landreth of ShallNot.org. “With strong protections for the ownership of firearms in the Tennessee constitution, this is going to call into question help being provided to a large number of federal gun control measures currently in effect too.”
Article I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution reads:
That the citizens of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.
As noted by the Tennessee Firearms Association, this provision “does not mention the “militia” when it speaks of the right to keep, bear, and wear arms. It speaks of the individual rights of the citizens of this state to keep, bear and wear arms.”
In his important study on the right to keep and bear arms in state constitutions, Constitutional Scholar Dave Kopel noted that Tennessee courts have been restrictive on the right to bear arms, but not on keeping them. He wrote, in part:
Tennessee’s Constitution mentions “common defence” and does not specifically state any other purposes for the arms right. The Tennessee Supreme Court in the 1840 Aymette case interpreted the Tennessee guarantee, and suggested that the Second Amendment was intended “[i]n the same view.”
The Court held that bearing arms was only for militia purposes, and that keeping arms was only for collective resistance to tyranny, not for “private” defense. But even in Aymette, the right to own firearms was not restricted solely to people who might be militiamen; rather the right belonged to all citizens: “The citizens have the unqualified right to keep the weapon.
But the right to bear arms is not of that unqualified character.” Thus, even with the most restrictive reading possible of the scope of “bear arms” and the purpose of the right to arms, all (law-abiding) citizens retain a right to keep arms. In 1866, a gun confiscation law was declared unconstitutional under the Tennessee guarantee.
In practice, this would have a significant impact on any proposals to implement an ammunition or other ban with or without the consent of Congress. The way this could play out, said Kopel in a recent report, is that if the federal government were to ban or further restrict any firearms, and then a local cop pulled someone over for a traffic violation and saw that firearm in the car, the cop could simply give the guy a ticket for the traffic violation and send him on his way.
And, as even the Huffington Post has recently acknowledged, “resources of the federal government are stretched thin,” and such bills would “have effects beyond a simple symbolic statement. ”
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano affirmed the strategy. In a recent televised discussion on the issue, he noted that a single state taking this step would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL
Refusing to participate with federal enforcement is not just an effective method, it has also been sanctioned by the Supreme Court in a number of major cases, dating from 1842. The 1997 case, Printz v. US serves as the cornerstone. In it, Justice Scalia held:
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.
As noted Georgetown Law Constitutional Scholar Randy Barnett has said, “This line of cases is now considered well settled.”
Weaver affirmed this principle in the hearing.
“There’s nothing in the Constitution requiring us to help the feds violate our rights,” said Weaver. “And under the well-established anti-commandeering doctrine, the supreme court has consistently held that the federal government cannot force states to provide personnel or resources to implement or enforce federal acts or programs.”
Similar legislation is on Governor Bullock’s desk in Montana, passed the state Senate in Arizona, and was signed into law last year by Gov. Butch Otter. Passage into law will ensure that Tennessee helps lead the charge of state resistance to federal gun control.
“The right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental, individual right that shall not be infringed,” said Weaver. “It is my hope and intent that Tennessee will lead the charge to preserve and protect the 2nd and 10th Amendment.”
HB1341 now moves to the House Civil Justice Committee, where it will need to pass by a majority vote before the full House can consider it.
TAKE ACTION IN SUPPORT
In Tennessee: Follow the steps to support this bill at THIS LINK
ALL OTHER STATES:
Urge your state rep and senator to introduce a similar bill. Send them the link the model legislation at this link:
contact info here: http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator
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