RICHMOND, Va. (Dec. 11, 2015) – A bill prefiled in the Virginia House for the 2016 legislative session would prohibit state cooperation with the enforcement of any future federal laws, regulations, or executive orders relating to firearms, ammunition or firearms components, effectively nullifying any such acts in practice within the state.
Del. Bob Marshall (R – 13) prefiled House Bill 83 (HB83) on Dec. 10. The legislation would prohibit state cooperation with enforcement of any future federal gun control laws or executive orders, along with state participation an any federal gun registry program. The bill reads:
Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, no agency or political subdivision of the Commonwealth, as those terms are defined in § 8.01-385, or any employee or agent thereof acting in his official capacity, shall knowingly aid any employee or entity of the federal government of the United States (i) in any investigation, prosecution, detention, or arrest or participate in any search or seizure relating to any criminal, civil, or administrative restrictions on firearms, firearm magazines, ammunition, or components thereof based on any federal statute enacted or any executive order or regulation issued on or after December 1, 2015, or (ii) in the conduct of, or the enforcement of any requirement for, any background check related to any intrastate sale, loan, gift, or other transfer of a firearm between citizens of the Commonwealth who do not possess a federal firearms license under 18 U.S.C. § 923.
The federal government depends on state assistance to enforce nearly all of its laws. If passed, HB83 would effectively nullify any future federal gun control in Virginia by denying this vital state support. Judge Andrew Napolitano suggested that a single state standing down would make new federal gun laws “nearly impossible to enforce” within that state.
HB83 follows the blueprint “Father of the Constitution,” created for resisting federal power. In Federalist 46 James Madison outlined several steps that states can take to effectively stop “an unwarrantable measure,” or “even a warrantable measure” of the federal government. Madison called for “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” as a way to successfully thwart federal acts.
Idaho passed a similar measure in 2014.
The bill 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 and federal act or program The anti-commandeering doctrine rests primarily on four Supreme Court cases 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.”
HB83 is currently pending a committee referral, where it will need to pass before the full House can vote on it.
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