MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Feb. 3, 2022) – Yesterday, an Alabama Senate committee passed a bill that would end state and local enforcement of most federal gun control; past, present and future. Enactment of this legislation into law would represent a major step toward ending federal acts that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms within the state.
Sen. Gerald Allen introduced Senate Bill 2 (SB2) on Jan. 11. Titled the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” (SAPA), the legislation would broadly ban state and local agents from enforcing federal gun control.
DETAILS OF THE LEGISLATION
SB2 declares that “any and all federal acts, laws, orders, rules, and regulations related to firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition are a direct infringement on the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America and therefore are unconstitutional” and bans any “officer, agent, or employee of the State of Alabama or a political subdivision thereof” from enforcing such federal acts.
It also bars the allocation of assets, state funds, or funds allocated by the state to local entities for the enforcement of federal gun control. The bill includes misdemeanor criminal penalties for state agents who violate the law.
Under the proposed law, infringement on the right to keep and bear arms would include the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968. Pres. Trump’s bump-stock ban, proposed federal “red-flag laws,” and any future gun control schemes implemented by the federal government.
On Feb. 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB2 by a 6-4 vote with one amendment.
The amendment would allow state and local enforcement of any federal tax, levy, fee, or stamp imposed pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 4181 from which the revenue is appropriated under the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act. This federal law imposes a tax on sporting firearms and ammunition to fund the management and restoration of wildlife.
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.
SB2 will move to the full Senate for further consideration.