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Texas House Committee Holds Hearing on Bill to Declare Federal Gun Control “Invalid”

A Texas flag flapping boldly in the wind.

AUSTIN, Tex. (Mar. 22, 2015) Last week, an important Texas House committee held its first hearing on a bill that would have the effect of blocking enforcement of most federal gun control measures in the state.

Introduced by Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Ft. Worth), House Bill 413 (HB413) declares all federal restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms to be “invalid” and “not enforceable” within the state of Texas.

On March 19, the State & Federal Power & Responsibility, Select Committee heard testimony on HB413 and debated the bill. The overall tone was one of apprehension from committee members. They did not seem to disapprove of the bill per se, but were unsure as to its purpose and how exactly it would work.

“This bill doesn’t necessarily expressly create a criminal offense, or increase the punishment for any existing criminal offenses or category offenses,” Rep. Goldman said to clarify the bill’s intent. He stated that he merely hopes to re-affirm the natural right to bear arms that is enshrined in the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution by proposing HB413.

Rep. Goldman did say that he was open to amending the bill to address various concerns with it, including how it might impact individuals living in Texas who are employed by the federal government. Chairman Phil King (R-Weatherford) talked of possible ‘tweaking’ that could be done to the bill to satisfy the committee’s concerns while keeping its effect in tact. Two individuals showed up in support of HB413, with one giving testimony in its favor.

HB413 did not receive a vote from the committee. It will likely receive another hearing with possible amendments considered before being voted upon. The bill reads, in part:

A federal law, including a statute, an executive, administrative, or court order, or a rule, that infringes on a law-abiding citizen’s right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution or Section 23, Article I, Texas Constitution, is invalid and not enforceable in this state.

If passed into law, all government agencies and employees within Texas would be banned from enforcing any federal law in violation of the act. The prohibition on enforcement includes any federal act that:

(1) imposes a tax, fee, or stamp on a firearm, firearm accessory, or firearm ammunition that is not common to all other goods and services and may be reasonably expected to create a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by a law-abiding citizen;
(2) requires the registration or tracking of a firearm, firearm accessory, or firearm ammunition or the owners of those items that may be reasonably expected to create a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by a law-abiding citizen;
(3) prohibits the possession, ownership, use, or transfer of a firearm, firearm accessory, or firearm ammunition by a law-abiding citizen; and
(4) orders the confiscation of a firearm, firearm accessory, or firearm ammunition from a law-abiding citizen.

State employees who knowingly violate the act would risk a suit for damages for helping the federal government violate a person’s right to keep and bear arms in Texas. A defense of sovereign immunity would also be prohibited in such a suit.

HB413 is not the only piece of legislation introduced in the Texas legislature this year to defend firearm rights from unconstitutional federal gun control measures. House Bill 422 (HB422) was introduced by Rep. Matthew Krause (R-Ft. Worth) to require that the state refuse to enforce almost all federal gun control measures enacted at anytime – past, present or future. It has yet to receive a committee hearing at the present time.

“With these bills, Texas could help lead the country forward,” said Scott Landreth, campaign lead for ShallNot.org, a project of the Tenth Amendment Center. “Passage would have serious impact on the federal government’s ability to carry out its unconstitutional gun control measures already on the books.”

Recognizing that the federal government would always require cooperation on a state and local level, James Madison, writing in Federalist #46, advised state “legislative devices” and a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” as a strategy to push back against unconstitutional or merely unpopular federal acts.

Landreth suggested that this could create a domino effect.

“If a few other states follow this leadership from Texas, it’ll also give Washington D.C. pause before even trying to pass new restrictions on our right to keep and bear arms,” he said.

The approach is on sound legal footing, with notable Supreme Court opinions backing the view that the federal government cannot require a state to expend manpower or resources in the enforcement of a federal act. 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 20 years old and considered well settled.”

ACTION ITEMS

For Texas: Support this important bill AT THIS LINK.

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