FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan 9, 2017) – A Kentucky bill would take the first step toward prohibiting state cooperation with the enforcement of federal gun control measures, a move that would effectively nullify them in practice in the Bluegrass State.
Rep. Diane St. Onge (R-Lakeside Park), along with 12 cosponsors, introduced House Bill 120 (HB120) on Jan. 3. The legislation would require the Kentucky General Assembly to “adopt and enact any and all measures as may be necessary to prevent the enforcement of any federal act, law, order, rule, or regulation which attempts to commandeer local or state law enforcement officers to enforce federal restrictions on firearms in violation of the Constitution of the United States.”
This bill would only go into effect if the feds try to expressly commandeer state resources. That hasn’t happened …yet. Most state cooperation happens voluntarily. But we shouldn’t be surprised if the feds eventually expressly commandeer state resources – especially if other states refuse to cooperate with enforcement.
Passage of HB120 would also set the stage for future action, such as a blanket ban on state cooperation with enforcement of federal gun control.
Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” represents an extremely effectively method to bring down federal gun control measures because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from the states.
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed. In a televised discussion on the issue, he noted that a single state taking this step would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.
The federal government relies heavily on state cooperation to implement and enforce almost all of its laws, regulations and acts – including gun laws. By simply withdrawing this necessary cooperation, states can nullify in effect many federal actions. As noted by the National Governor’s Association during the partial government shutdown of 2013, “states are partners with the federal government on most federal programs.”
“Partnerships don’t work too well when half the team quits,” said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. “By withdrawing all resources and participation in federal gun control schemes, the states can effectively bring them down.”
HB120 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 any federal act or program. The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on four Supreme Court 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.”
HB120 had not been assigned to a committee at the time of publication. Once it receives an assignment, it will need to pass with a majority vote before moving to the full House for further consideration.
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