To Protect the Second Amendment, Pennsylvanians Rediscover the Tenth

After the flurry of new legislation introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 2013, gun owners should consider sprucing up their spring wardrobes with Tenth Amendment t-shirts and hats.

In mid-January, State Representative Daryl Metcalfe proposed the Right to Bear Arms Protection Act (HB 357) which nullifies all federal firearms laws adopted after December 31, 2012. HB 357, which provides criminal penalties for attempted enforcement of unconstitutional gun laws in Pennsylvania, amassed 67 co-sponsors in the last month.

Following closely on the heels of HB 357, State Representative Matt Gabler introduced the Firearms Freedom Act (HB 475) which prevents any federal regulation of firearms and ammunition manufactured and sold within Pennsylvania’s borders. Citing the 9th and 10th amendments as valid consideration for Pennsylvania entering in the union compact in 1787, HB 475 draws a line in the sand against federal laws that are offensive to intrastate commerce and Pennsylvania and federal constitutional guarantees of gun rights. HB 475 garnered 49 cosponsors in the last three weeks.

Despite the popularity of both pending nullification bills, several Republican and Democratic state legislators have refused to join as cosponsors, invariably citing the Supremacy Clause for the proposition that federal laws are supreme and only federal courts can say otherwise.

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PA State Representative Introduces Legislation to Nullify Federal Gun-Grabbing

Today Pennsylvania became the 13th state in the last three weeks to introduce legislation nullifying federal encroachments of firearms ownership.  State Representative Daryl Metcalfe modeled the Right to Bear Arms Protection Act (House Bill 357) after legislation recently introduced in Wyoming and Texas.

Highlights of House Bill 357 (yep, that’s 357) include:

  • prohibitions against enforcement of any new federal registration, restriction or prohibition requirement for privately owned firearms, magazines and ammunition.
  • the requirement that the state of Pennsylvania, including the Office of Attorney General, to intercede on behalf of Commonwealth citizens against any federal attempt to register, restrict or ban the purchase or ownership of firearms and firearms accessories which are currently legal products.
  • felony charges against anyone – including federal agents who try to enforce any type of gun control restriction within state borders.

“Passage of my legislation will send the message that there will never be additional gun control, anywhere in Pennsylvania,” said Metcalfe.  “Whether by White House executive orders, congressional fiat, or judicial activism, we will never allow the left to benefit from the wicked acts of murderers in order advance their senseless gun-grabbing agenda which would only succeed in replacing one of our most sacred personal liberties with the chains of government tyranny.”

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“Kaine” is a Code Word. For Idiot.

Earlier today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine observed to CNN’s Soledad O’Brien that “Nullification is a code word.”

“For what?” inquired O’Brien.

Sen. Kaine, aggrieved that his colleague Senator Rand Paul used the “N” word in the recent gun control debate, responded: “It’s a states right argument that gets used in times of great controversy. The President is acting by executive power that is legally conferred on him. And as you pointed out, you went over these executive orders. They’re basic, common sense things.”

Indeed, it is precisely the states’ rights argument used by two heaps more famous Virginians, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, when they spat in the eye of President John Adams and his hyper-partisan, First Amendment-trampling Alien and Sedition Acts. And during the time of that other great controversy, i.e., slavery, the “N” word was used by northern states when they interposed against the federal Fugitive Slave Acts of 1850.

You see, Sen. Kaine, nullification, if a code word at all, is a code word for freedom.

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A Tenther’s Guide to the Fiscal Cliff

Watching Republicans and Democrats squabble over the so-called fiscal cliff is like watching a duo of burglars arguing over who keeps your flat screen television. No matter which party prevails, you lose.

Tenthers, as a class, tend to be more pre-occupied with the liberty cliff, whose precipitous incline we fell off long ago. The other various cliffs – fiscal, debt, tax policy, entitlements – are really just the jagged rocks we’ve met on the way down. Which is why Tenthers tend not to wade into the whole fiscal cliff debate. If your causes are liberty, constitutional rule of law and sound currency, then it seems downright silly to sweat the details of how much the federal government should raise the debt ceiling to pay for foreign wars, Obamaphones and highways named after U.S. Senators.

Consider the numbers. The federal government now spends $3,800,000,000,000.00 per year. Various taxes supply about $2,900,000,000,000.00 of that amount. The free ride component – the annual deficit – has now accrued to a staggering $16,000,000,000,000.00 in national debt.

Faced with these appalling details, the Democrats (and Paul Krugman) respond with calls to tax and spend more. Republicans, the supposedly more fiscally continent of the two parties, grumble on about tax increases and then invariably capitulate to more borrowing and spending. And with the deck chairs on the Titanic nicely rearranged, the American people are once again free. By “free” I mean free to watch Dancing with the Stars and Real Housewives of Cleveland while an omnipotent federal government further enslaves us into a highly regulated, pathetically dependent blob of couch potatoes.

So what would a Tenther do? I’m glad you asked!  Here’s 4 steps a Tenther would take:

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A Proper Movement

“All men have an instinct for conflict at least, all healthy men.” – Hillaire Beloc

No doubt Mr. Belloc would have enjoyed the skirmishes ever-present on Facebook in the months leading to the November 6th election. In fits of ideological purity, usually accompanied by that quite unnecessary third glass of wine, I found myself enjoying the role of judge, jury and censor, exiling unrepentant liberals from my Facebook real estate.

As many of our readers can personally attest, these conflicts were not limited to Democrat-Republican or conservative-liberal. Conservatives took shots at RINOs. Libertarians flayed conservatives. Even libertarians sparred amongst themselves, passionately trading blows over lesser evils and greater goods.

Conflict is healthy; it keeps our wits sharp and our ideas sound. And compromise, capitulation and bipartisanship – in the context of subordinating our Constitution to the whims and wants of democracy – are unhealthy, fatal actually, to the future of our Republic.

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The Bribery of the Five Percent

Bribery is the lifeblood of democracy. The President of these United States, putatively known as the Leader of the Free World, is chosen not for his commitments to liberty, constitutional rule of law or limited government. Instead we bear embarrassing witness to Mitt and Barry jousting for the votes of the five percent who will decide the election based upon promises of government swag. Pell Grants! Cash to Planned Parenthood! Cheaper gasoline! Pick me! No, pick me!

These five percenters are not ideologues. Indeed, they are eminently pragmatic. They rightly suspect that the robust tax-and-spend programs of the Left will lead to our collective financial ruin. At the same time, and without apparent dissonance, they see a big government pie and want their piece.

Barry’s job should be the easy one. His is the party of bribes. Democrats are legendarily famous for showering their constituencies with free food, free houses, free phones, free mortgages, free salaries, free health care, free venture capital loans and of course free salamander crossings.

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Freeloaders, Spongers & Takers

“Extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.” Paul Krugman

“If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”Barack Hossein Obama

“The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state.”  Karl Marx

Freeloaders of the world unite! This message rings clear on Barack Obama’s Facebook page. Free student loans! Free birth control pills!  Free health care! Subsidies for wind power!

To count the existing and proposed claimants on the Federal purse is to count the reasons why the National Government is $16,000,000,000,000.00 in debt. And it is no coincidence that the fifty percent of Americans now dependent upon Federal subsidy count among the President’s most fervent supporters. Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell called us a nation of whiners. That characterization is fair, but not complete. We are nation of spongers.

It almost makes you nostalgic for classic Marxism as envisioned by Karl himself. The old, gritty version of socialism required toiling workers so each could enjoy the ensuing (but entirely fictional) paradise.

Not now.

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My Three Pauls

It is said that the falling off a ladder is less a problem than one’s ultimate meeting with the ground below. So it is with democracy unrestrained by constitutional charter. The absurd debt incurred annually by Congressmen gaming re-election prospects will be less bothersome than the rioting in the streets when China cuts off our credit limit.

Democrats, the party of public dependence, responded in predictably shrill tones to the addition of Paul Ryan to the Mitt Romney ticket. Mr. Ryan’s budgetary proposal is to borrow $300 billion per year to operate the unconstitutionally large National Government instead of $1.3 trillion. My own preference is for Rand Paul’s plan which balances the budget in five years and uproots a few federal departments planted and grown under the liberal fallacy of a Constitution limited only by the whims of the populace.

Even so, I credit Mitt with choosing one of the three Pauls, even if his Paul carries a hedge-trimmer instead of shovel. With half our voting public pocketing one or another government subsidy, it’s a wonder we are not yet Venezuela. At this point in history I’ll take anyone who promises to whittle away at the dependency agenda.

Pragmatic libertarians like me view this is as a two-prong defense of liberty. The Republican presidential ticket, if true to its word, will slow and perhaps arrest some of the growth of the National Government. The longer prong is with the States. When I say States, I don’t mean the liberal miasmas of California or New York, but those hardy States with a citizenry displaying a clear bias for liberty and against the overlords of Washington, D.C.

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On Governors and Liberty

State governors are the battered wives of the Federal system.

Given a hefty annual allowance from Washington, D.C., they are content to suffer blow after blow to the  State sovereignty guaranteed by the Constitution. This is true of Democrats and Republicans alike. Living more or less happily for four- and eight-year stints in their various state-owned mansions, they could just as well be administering colonies for a distant British Crown.

And why not? Over $600 billion in direct Federal aid flows annually for medical, education, transportation, agricultural, housing and other miscellaneous outlays that now comprise the largest source of State revenues. Two states – Louisiana and Oklahoma – lean on Uncle Sam for half of their budget revenue. Thus, we end up with governors who would rather occupy their workdays choosing new license plate colors than objecting to unconstitutional Federal spending on colonoscopies, preschools, highways, sugar subsidies and free townhouses.

In case you were absent that day, the whole point of the Constitution was to keep us a free people, not to give free things to people.  The national government was given a few specific chores: maintain a navy, deliver the mail, keep states from engaging in trade wars, and a few others listed in Article I, Section 8.

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Arizona Takes One on the Chin

The enthusiasm by which the Supreme Court eviscerated Arizona’s immigration law (known as S.B. 1070) yesterday should surprise few observers. Pittsburgh Pirates fans would noisily protest if the umpire arrived sporting a Phillies jersey. That the self-appointed referee between the National Government and the States is on the National Government’s team is not unconnected with the lopsided scorecard.

The legal arguments that carried the 5-3 decision in Arizona v. United States are worth understanding, since all are based upon the “Supremacy Clause” (Art. VI, cl. 2) of the Constitution. As typical, the Supremacy Clause is selectively quoted:

The Supremacy Clause provides a clear rule that federal law “shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” 567 U. S. ____ (2012)

But Justice Kennedy omits the first bit: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States…” (italics added). Stated another way, if a conflict exists between a federal law made pursuant to an enumerated power and a State law, the federal law wins. This differs drastically from what I call the Pelosi Rule, which is the tyrannically crazy idea that if Congress votes for it, the law is constitutional, end of story. 

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