OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (March 3, 2020) – Last Friday, an Oklahoma House committee passed a bill that would prohibit enforcement of some federal gun control in the state, setting the stage to nullify it in practice and effect.
Rep. Justin Humphrey introduced House Bill 2901 (HB2901) on Feb. 3. The proposed law would prohibit any law enforcement officer from obeying or enforcing any direct or indirect order that “violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, Article II, Section 26 of the Constitution of Oklahoma or the law enforcement oath of the law enforcement officer.
The legislation specifies some actions that would be considered infringement under the law.
“Any federal, state, county or municipal act, law, executive order, administrative order, court order, rule or regulation ordering the confiscation of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition from law-abiding citizens of this state shall be considered an infringement on the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Article II, Section 26 of the Constitution of Oklahoma.”
HB2901 would specifically prohibit state and local law enforcement officers from enforcing those specific acts and would give them the discretion to refuse to enforce other federal gun control laws that they consider an infringement of the Second Amendment or the Oklahoma constitution. The proposed law would prohibit any state agency or department from firing or retaliating against a law enforcement agent who refuses to enforce an order that violates the U.S. or state constitutions or their oath of office. It would also bar the state from cutting funding to a sheriff’s office or municipal police force that takes such an action.
The House Public Safety Committee passed HB2901 by a vote of 11-1.
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 many federal actions in effect. 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 acts 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 divided 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 and again in 2018.
The state of Oklahoma 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”
HB2901 will now go to the full House for further consideration.
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