BATON ROUGE, La. (April 29, 2021) – On Thursday, a Louisiana House committee passed a bill to prohibit state and local enforcement of some future federal gun control. Passage into law would represent a step toward stopping certain future federal acts that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms within the state.
Rep. Larry Frieman (R-Abita Springs) filed House Bill 118 (HB118) on March 15. Titled the “Louisiana Firearm Protection Act,” the legislation would bar state enforcement of certain future federal gun that infringes on a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Louisiana.
As introduced, the prohibition on state enforcement would have applied to all federal gun control not duplicated by state law — past, present and future. The House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice amended the bill to apply only to federal acts “enacted after Jan. 1, 2021,” and passed it by an 8-4 vote.
The bill defines specific acts that would be considered infringements, including but not limited to:
- taxes and fees on firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition not common to all other goods and services that would have a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;
- registration and tracking schemes applied to firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition;
- any act forbidding the possession, ownership, or use or transfer of a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition by law-abiding citizens;
- any act ordering the confiscation of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition from law-abiding citizens.
A law-abiding citizen is defined as ” a person who is not otherwise precluded under state law from possessing a firearm.”
The proposed law would prohibit the state, its agencies, and its political subdivision from “adopting a rule, order, ordinance, or policy under which the entity explicitly or through consistent overt action enforces a federal statute, order, rule, or regulation enacted that purports to regulate a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition” if it infringes on the right to keep and bear arms.
It would also prohibit the use of state assets, state funds, or funds allocated by the state to local entities “in whole or in part, to engage in any activity that aids a federal agency, federal agent, or corporation providing services to the federal government in the enforcement of or any investigation pursuant to the enforcement of any federal act, law, order, rule, or regulation regarding a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition” that infringes on the right to keep and bear arms.
The proposed law would create a cause of action to sue any person that violates the law in state court without the possibility “sovereign, official, or qualified immunity” as an affirmative defense. Any state agency or political subdivision in violation of the law would be subject to losing state grant funds the following year.
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 Louisiana 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”
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.
HB118 will likely go to the full House for further consideration, although it could be referred to a second committee.