AUSTIN, Tx. (May 7, 2015) – Yesterday, a Texas House Committee unanimously passed a bill that would effectively block in practice federal gun control measures within the state.
Introduced by Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), House Bill 422 (HB422) would deny state material support and enforcement of many federal gun control measures, past, present or future. Experts have noted that the federal government lacks the resources to enforce such measures without participation on the state level and passage would help eliminate enforcement in practice.
The bill reads, in part:
An agency of this state or a political subdivision of this state, and a law enforcement officer or other person employed by an agency of this state or a political subdivision of this state, may not contract with or in any other manner provide assistance to a federal agency or official with respect to the enforcement of a federal statute, order, rule, or regulation purporting to regulate a firearm, a firearm accessory, or firearm ammunition if the statute, order, rule, or regulation imposes a prohibition, restriction, or other regulation, such as a capacity or size limitation or a registration requirement, that does not exist under the laws of this state.
“If the federal government has a more onerous or restrictive firearm regulation than the state does, then the state is not going to use any time, personnel, or energy to enforce those laws,” said Krause.
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.
This mirrors the advice of James Madison, the “father of the Constitution,” who wrote in Federalist #46 that an effective strategy for individuals and states to stop federal acts included a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union.”
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.”
Texas has no “assault weapon” law, no registration requirement, no state permit to purchase requirement, no owner license requirement, and no magazine capacity restriction.
The way this could play out is that if the federal government were to enforce any such federal laws in Texas, they would have to try to do it without any help from Texas law enforcement. This would mean Texas agents or employees wouldn’t knock on a door to serve a warrant, they wouldn’t help with traffic control when the federal agents were trying to conduct an operation, they wouldn’t share information, wouldn’t allow Texas prisons to temporarily hold or detain people arrested, and the like.
If a local cop pulled someone over for a traffic violation and saw a federally-banned firearm in the car that didn’t have a concurrent Texas ben, the cop could simply give the guy a ticket for the traffic violation and send him on his way.
“We are just saying if you’re going to do it, it’s contrary to what we believe is in the best interest of Texans, especially in relation to firearm regulation, we’re not going to help you enforce that,” said Krause.
Recently-proposed federal measures, such as an M855 ammo ban would fall under the new law and state resources would be prohibited from being used to help the federal government enforce such a ban. And any attempt to re-enact the federal “assault weapons” ban, which expired in 2004, should meet the same level of resistance in Tennessee.
The latter is an important focus for gun rights activists, as leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently renewed her call for reinstatement of the ban.
Something that could be particularly notable is the federal Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 (18 U.S.C. § 922(p)). The law is in effect until 2023 and “makes it illegal to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive any firearm that is not as detectable by walk-through metal detection as a security exemplar containing 3.7 oz of steel, or any firearm with major components that do not generate an accurate image before standard airport imaging technology.”
No concurrent prohibition exists in Texas.
“This bill draws a line in the sand on federal gun control” said Scott Landreth of ShallNot.org. “Passage sets the foundation for a rejecting of every federal gun control measure – past, present, or future.”
HB422 will now be sent to the Calendars committee for possible scheduling on the House floor. With a deadline for House passage late next week, Krause suggested that it would take heavy grassroots support to keep the bill alive and on the calendar for a House vote before the cutoff date.
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