I submitted the following written testimony to the Ohio House State and Local Government Committee in support of House Bill 62. The proposed law would take on federal gun control past, present and future.
I am writing in support of HB62, The Ohio Second Amendment Safe Haven Act.
As James Madison wrote in 1798, the state legislature is “in duty bound” to “interpose for arresting the progress of the evil” in cases of “a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers,” not granted by the Constitution.
Federal gun control that violates the Second Amendment certainly qualifies as such “an evil.”
But the question remains: does the state legislature have the authority to refuse to enforce federal gun control?
The short answer is yes.
Many people will focus on whether or not the state has the authority to deem a federal act unconstitutional. We can have that debate, but it is irrelevant to the question at hand. The state of Ohio can refuse to enforce any federal law or implement any federal program for whatever reason it chooses – or for no reason at all. You could prohibit state and local agencies from enforcing federal gun control just because it’s Thursday and there’s snow on the ground.
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”
This point is key; no determination of constitutionality is necessary to invoke the anti-commandeering doctrine. State and local governments can refuse to enforce federal laws or implement federal programs whether they are constitutional or not.
HB62 stands on unshakable legal ground. If you truly believe in the constitutional limits on federal power and the rule of law expressed in the Second Amendment, I urge you to vote yes.
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