COLUMBIA, S.C. (May 17, 2016) – A Democratic opponent of a South Carolina bill that would ban state enforcement of any future federal gun control measures recently put his constitutional ignorance on display during a recent Senate committee hearing.

H4701 would prohibit South Carolina state agencies from enforcing any federal law, rule, or regulation taking effect after January 1, 2016, that limits the right of a person to own, possess, or use a firearm, ammunition, or firearm accessories. The bill would also prohibit the state from accepting any federal funds related to any future law, rule, or regulation, that requires firearms to be registered or confiscated. Finally, the bill would bar the state from expending any funds for the enforcement of such laws, rules or regulations.

Orangeburg Democrat Sen. Brad Hutto called the bill “unconstitutional” saying that the supremacy clause of the U.S.Constitution does not allow states to refuse to enforce federal laws.

“It raises issues that only a court is going to be able to resolve properly,” he said.

But the courts have already settled this issue – way back in 1842.

Ever since Justice Joseph Story held in Prigg v. Pennsylvania that the federal government could not force states to enforce federal fugitive slave laws, the Supreme Court has consistently held that the feds cannot commandeer state resources or compel state personnel to enforce or implement a federal act or program.

In Prigg, Story wrote:

“The fundamental principle applicable to all cases of this sort, would seem to be, that where the end is required, the means are given; and where the duty is enjoined, the ability to perform it is contemplated to exist on the part of the functionaries to whom it is entrusted. The [fugitive slave] clause is found in the national Constitution, and not in that of any state. It does not point out any state functionaries, or any state action to carry its provisions into effect. The states cannot, therefore, be compelled to enforce them; and it might well be deemed an unconstitutional exercise of the power of interpretation, to insist that the states are bound to provide means to carry into effect the duties of the national government, nowhere delegated or instrusted to them by the Constitution.”

Since the Prigg decision, the Court has built on what has become known as the anti-commandeering doctrine through four other major cases. The 1997 Printz case was the culmination.

“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.”

So yes, H4701 is absolutely constitutional and Supreme Court approved.

Hutto is clearly just another politician flapping his gums about something he doesn’t know anything about.

Mike Maharrey

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