COLUMBIA, S.C. (April 8, 2021) – Today, the South Carolina House passed a bill that would set the foundation to end enforcement of future federal gun control and make it legal for South Carolinians to carry a firearm without a permit. Passage into law would represent a major step toward neutering future federal gun laws in South Carolina.
Rep. B. Cox (R-Greenville County) introduced House Bill 3096 (H3096 ) on Jan 12. As introduced, the legislation would authorize anyone legally allowed to own a gun to carry it without a state-issued license.
On the House floor, an amendment was approved adding language to prohibit state or local enforcement of future federal gun control by banning the allocation of any state or local funds “for the implementation, regulation, or enforcement of any executive order, or directive issued by the President of the United States or an act of the United States Congress that contradicts the provisions of this act relating to Constitutional Carry, or that otherwise regulates the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories if passed after January 1, 2021.”
It would also ban state and local governments from allocating personnel or property for “the implementation, regulation, or enforcement of any executive order, or directive issued by the President of the United States that contradicts the provisions of this act relating to Constitutional Carry, or that regulates the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories if passed after January 1, 2021.”
On Wednesday, the House voted 69-47 to approve the bill on 2nd Reading. And today, the bill was read for a 3rd time, passed, and sent to the Senate.
The language addressing federal gun control mirrors the Second Amendment Preservation Act sponsored by Rep Stewart Jones (R- Laurens). Sources close to the Tenth Amendment Center say that bill was going to be buried in the House Judiciary Committee. By amending the language to H3096 after it had already passed committee, Jones gave his bill new life.
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 South Carolina 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.
The bill authorizes adults to carry a handgun without first having to get government permission. Additionally, the legislation maintains the existing Concealed Weapon Permit (CWP) system, so people who still wish to obtain a permit may do so.
While such permitless or “constitutional” carry bills do not directly affect federal gun control, the widespread passage of permitless conceal carry laws in states subtly undermines federal efforts to regulate guns. As we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, a federal regulation becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws encouraging the prohibited activity anyway.
The federal government lacks the enforcement power necessary to maintain its ban, and people will willingly take on the small risk of federal sanctions if they know the state will not interfere. This increases when the state actively encourages “the market.”
Less restrictive state gun laws will likely have a similar impact on federal gun laws. It will make it that much more difficult for the feds to enforce any future federal gun control, and increase the likelihood that states with few limits will simply refuse to cooperate with federal enforcement efforts.
State actions such as passing H3096 would lower barriers for those wanting to the option of defending themselves with firearms and encourages a “gun-friendly” environment that would make federal efforts to limit firearms that much more difficult.
H3096 now moves to the Senate, and has been assigned to the powerful Judiciary Committee. There, it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.