MONTGOMERY. Ala. (Dec. 1, 2021) – At least five bills have been prefiled in the Alabama legislature that would end or limit state and local enforcement of federal gun control. Enactment of one or more of these bills into law would represent a step toward ending federal acts that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms within the state.
The first two bills prefiled were HB7 and SB2. While taking slightly different approaches, both bills would end state and local enforcement of most federal gun control; past, present and future.
On Nov. 11, Rep. Parker Moore (R), Rep. Craig Lipscomb and Rep. Ed Oliver (R) prefiled House Bill 13 (HB13) and would also take on most federal gun control; past, present and future. The legislation would prohibit appointed or elected officials, officers, employees, or agents of the state, or any political subdivision of the state from enforcing a presidential executive order or congressional act “that regulates the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories.” It also bans the use of public funds or property of the state or its political subdivisions for enforcement of the same. State officials in violation of the law would be subject to misdemeanor criminal penalties.
HB13 also declares that any firearm or firearm accessory made in Alabama that remains within the state “is not subject to federal law or regulation, including registration, under the authority of the United States Congress to regulate interstate commerce, as the item has not traveled in interstate commerce.” The state attorney general would be required to defend any Alabama resident from federal prosecution under this law. These provisions are similar to the Kansas Second Amendment Protection Act passed in 2013. The feds successfully prosecuted two individuals despite the Kansas law. Depending on the courts for protection is not a good strategy, but the anti-commandeering provisions in this bill would prove effective in blocking enforcement of future federal gun control.
Lipscomb and Moore also prefiled House Bill 14 (HB14) the same day. The provisions in this legislation are very similar to HB13 but would only prohibit enforcement of future presidential executive orders or congressional acts “that regulate the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories.”
Sen. Gerald Allen (R) introduced Senate Bill 8 (SB8). The legislation would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. The proposed amendment would provide that no public funds of the state or any political subdivision of the state could be allocated for the enforcement of any executive order issued by the President of the United States that becomes effective after January 23 1, 2021, which limits or restricts the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories by law-abiding residents of the state.” It would also bar any official, officer, or employee of the state or its political subdivisions when acting in an official capacity to enforce the same.
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 Alabama 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.
All five bills will be officially introduced on Jan. 11, 2022. HB7 will be referred to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. HB13 and HB14 will be referred to the House Judiciary Committee. SB7 and SB8 will be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Each bill must come up for a vote and pass out with a majority to continue on in the legislative process.
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