AUSTIN, Texas (Dec. 2, 2020) – A bill filed in the Texas House for the 2021 legislative session would take on federal gun control and end enforcement of most federal acts that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms within the state.
Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) prefiled House Bill 635 (HB635) on Nov. 24. The bill would prohibit state agencies and law enforcement officers from having “contract with or in any other manner provide assistance to a federal agency or official with respect to the enforcement of a federal statute, order, rule, or regulation purporting to regulate a firearm, a firearm accessory, or firearm ammunition if the statute, order, rule, or regulation imposes a prohibition, restriction, or other regulation, such as a capacity or size limitation or a registration requirement, that does not exist under the laws of this state.”
The proposed law has an exception that would allow state enforcement of federal gun laws on the books as of August 31, 2021, “that pertain to border security.”
The legislation would prohibit state agencies from receiving grants conditional upon enforcing federal gun control. It would also create a process for Texans to file complaints with the attorney general if state agencies or law enforcement officers violate this policy. The attorney general would also be required to defend any state agency sued by the federal government for refusing to enforce federal gun laws.
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.”
The state of Texas 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”
HB635 has been referred to the House State Affairs committee, where it will first need to be scheduled for a hearing – and then will need to pass by majority vote – before the full House can consider it. Texas residents who support the bill are urged to contact all members of the committee and firmly, but politely, let each member know they should support and vote YES on HB635. Committee members can be found at this link.