HELENA, Mont. (Jan. 15, 2017) – A bill introduced in the Montana Senate would prohibit state enforcement of any federal ban on firearms. If passed, the law would effectively nullify any such ban within the state.
Sen. Cary Smith (R-Billings) introduced Senate Bill 99 (SB99) on Jan. 9. The legislation would prohibit any state or local government employee, law enforcement officers, from enforcing. assisting in the enforcement of, or in any way cooperating with enforcement of a federal ban on firearms or magazines. The proposed law specifically prohibits participating in any federal enforcement action implementing such a ban.
SB99 includes a broad definition of “federal ban.”
“Federal ban” means a federal law or executive order that prohibits, restricts, or requires individual licensure for ownership, possession, transfer, or use of any firearm or any magazine or other ammunition feeding device.
The legislation would also prohibit expending or allocating public funds or resources for the enforcement of a federal ban on firearms or magazines.
SB99 does include a few exceptions. It would not apply to the possession of a fully automatic firearm, the enforcement of any federal or state law prohibiting a convicted felon from possessing a firearm, the enforcement of any federal or state law prohibiting a person convicted of domestic violence from possessing a firearm, or the enforcement of a protection order.
Some gun rights supporters argue that such a measure is “unnecessary” because it addresses a nonexistent problem with a Republican Congress and an NRA-backed president.
“While we’re not expecting any new gun control to come from the federal government in the next few years, there’s no guarantee that we won’t see another Obama-style president in the near future, hell-bent on attacking the right to keep and bear arms,” Boldin said.
Passage of SB99 would cement measures in place should a future Congress or presidential administration attempt to implement new gun control programs, and it sets the foundation to address current unconstitutional violations of the Second Amendment.
“This bill would act as an essential firewall for the future, and would also set the foundation for further action by Montana against current federal gun control,” Boldin said.
Passage of SB99 would effectively withdraw all state cooperation from the implementation or enforcement of federal gun bans, 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.”
SB99 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.”
SB99 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
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