HELENA, Mont. (Jan. 24, 2017) – A bill introduced in the Montana House would authorize a person to carry a handgun on U.S. Postal Service property in the state and set the foundation to nullify in effect an unconstitutional federal firearms regulation.
Rep. Randy Brodehl (R-Kalispell) introduced House Bill 246 (HB246) on Jan. 13. The legislation would allow handguns in U.S. Post Office buildings and on their property.
(1) A person may carry a lawfully possessed firearm on any portion of property open to the public and owned or leased by the United States postal service, including within postal service stores or mailrooms or on adjacent sidewalks, streets, and parking lots.
(2) A person may store a firearm, rifle, or shotgun in a vehicle temporarily parked on postal service property while the person is conducting postal service business.
HB246’s effectiveness lies in the refusal to cooperate with enforcement of federal law. The bill would prohibit state or local law enforcement from enforcing federal regulations prohibiting firearms on U.S. Postal Service Property.
A federal law or regulation making it unlawful for a person to carry a firearm on postal service property or to store a firearm, rifle, or shotgun in a vehicle temporarily parked on postal service property is not effective in this state and may not be enforced by a peace officer or other official with the authority to enforce a law or regulation concerning the carrying or possession of firearms in this state.
Federal law currently bans persons from possessing or carrying firearms on USPS property.
Passage of HB246 would not stop the federal government from prosecuting a person arrested on USPS property with a firearm, but it would remove the most important layer of enforcement. Without state or local police cooperation, who would make the arrests? Without such assistance, the federal government would have a difficult time enforcing its law. The post office would have to rely on federal law enforcement agencies to patrol Montana USPS facilities and make arrests under federal law. It simply does not have the resources to do this effectively. Passage of HB246 would nullify in effect the federal law.
Although the Constitution delegates power to the federal government “to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States,” the Second Amendment prohibits any law that infringes on the right to keep and bear arms. The regulations prohibiting firearms on USPS property violates the Second Amendment.
Again, it needs to be emphasized that HB246 would not shield a person from federal prosecution. But it would make the federal law nearly impossible to enforce.
Because passage of HB246 would effectively withdraw all state cooperation from the enforcement of federal gun regulation on USPS property, it would likely prove an effective method to nullify them in practice.
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.”
Provisions withdrawing state and local enforcement of federal law in HB246 rest 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.”
HB246 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
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