Introduced in the State Senates of both Colorado and South Dakota last week is a bill known as the “Firearms Freedom Act.” If passed, the bill would make state law that “any firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in the state and that remains within the borders of the state is not subject to federal law or federal regulation, including registration, under the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.”
This now makes Firearms Freedom Acts already passed in Montana and Tennessee, and currently introduced in these 21 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.
According to Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association and author of the original bill that was introduced in Montana, “It’s likely that FFAs will be introduced soon in West Virginia, New Mexico, Idaho, Kansas, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and maybe elsewhere”
South Dakota’s Senate Bill 89 (SB89) was introduced by State Senator Rhoden, and has 22 Senate co-sponsors and 44 House co-sponsors.
Colorado’s Senate Bill 092 (SB10-092) was introduced by State Senator Schultheis and has 9 Senate co-sponsors and 7 House co-sponsors.
CLICK HERE – to view the Tenth Amendment Center’s Firearms Freedom Act Tracking Page
The principle behind such legislation is nullification, which has a long history in the American tradition. When a state ‘nullifies’ a federal law, it is proclaiming that the law in question is void and inoperative, or ‘non-effective,’ within the boundaries of that state; or, in other words, not a law as far as the state is concerned.
But nullification is more than just a mere rhetorical statement or a resolution affirming the position of the legislature. To effectively nullify a federal law requires state action to prevent federal enforcement within the state.
Implied in any nullification legislation is enforcement of the state law. In the Virginia Resolution of 1798, James Madison wrote of the principle of interposition:
That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.
In his famous speech during the war of 1812, Daniel Webster said:
“The operation of measures thus unconstitutional and illegal ought to be prevented by a resort to other measures which are both constitutional and legal. It will be the solemn duty of the State governments to protect their own authority over their own militia, and to interpose between their citizens and arbitrary power. These are among the objects for which the State governments exist”
Here Madison and Webster assert what is implied in nullification laws — that state governments not only have the right to resist unconstitutional federal acts, but that, in order to protect liberty, they are “duty bound to interpose” or stand between the federal government and the people of the state.
In similar proposals, some legislators around the country have begun adding penalties – ranging from misdemeanors to felony charges – for federal agents, too. Other legislators have already introduced what’s known as the “State Sovereignty and Federal Tax Funds Act” which would require the state to interpose against the IRS and withhold tax funds from D.C. Click here to read more about this proposal.
Even without such specific penalties listed, I see this as an important step in the right direction.