BOISE, Idaho (Dec. 19, 2018) – An Idaho law passed in 2014 bars state or local enforcement of President Trump’s unconstitutional bump stock ban.
The president initiated his bump-stock ban via executive action. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Department of Justice was in the process of formulating rules to ban the devices last March after Trump signed a memorandum directing the department to make the regulatory change in February. The ban was in response to the tragic shooting at a Las Vegas concert that killed 59 people.
As TJ Martinell wrote before the ban was instituted, “Regardless of how effective a bump stock ban might be in preventing mass shootings or reducing casualty count (not very), the feds have no authority delegated to them to enact such a rule. Under the Constitution, this is power simply does not exist.”
On March 20, 2014, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signed a bill that effectively nullifies any federal gun laws passed after that date. The Idaho law prohibits state or local enforcement of any federal act relating to personal firearms, a firearm accessory, or ammunition in violation of the Idaho state constitution’s protections of the right to keep and bear arms.
The Idaho Federal Firearm, Magazine and Register Ban Enforcement Act “protects Idaho law enforcement officers from being directed, through federal executive orders, agency orders, statutes, laws, rules, or regulations enacted or promulgated on or after the effective date of this act, to violate their oath of office and Idaho citizens’ rights under Section 11, Article I, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho.”
That section of the Idaho constitution bars ” the confiscation of firearms, except those actually used in the commission of a felony,” and disallows other restrictions on a person’s lawful right to own firearms and ammunition.
Under the law:
“Any official, agent or employee of the state of Idaho or a political subdivision thereof who knowingly and willfully orders an official, agent or employee of the state of Idaho or a political subdivision of the state to enforce any executive order, agency order, law, rule or regulation of the United States government as provided in subsection (2) of this section upon a personal firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition shall, on a first violation, be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) which shall be paid into the general fund of the state.”
The inclusion of “a firearm accessory” in the statutory language likely prohibits the enforcement of Trump’s bump stock ban. The presumption should be that enforcement of the federal bump stock ban is illegal under the law. It would require a ruling by a state judge determining bump stocks do not fall under state constitutional protections for state enforcement of the federal law to proceed.
The federal government relies heavily on state cooperation to implement and enforce almost all of its laws, regulations and acts – including gun control. By simply withdrawing this necessary cooperation, states and localities can nullify in effect many federal actions. As noted by the National Governors’ Association during the partial government shutdown of 2013, “states are partners with the federal government on most federal programs.”
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 effective method to bring down federal gun control measures because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from state and local governments.
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.
“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, states and even local governments can help bring these unconstitutional act to their much-needed end.”
Some gun rights supporters have argued that such a measure is “unnecessary” because it addresses a nonexistent problem with a Republican Congress and an NRA-backed president. Trump’s bump stock ban obliterates this fallacy. Furthermore, the Trump administration actually ramped up enforcement of federal gun laws in 2017.
The state of Idaho can legally bar state agents from enforcing federal gun control. Refusal to cooperate with federal enforcement 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 five Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. U.S. 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”
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