OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (March 8, 2021) – Yesterday, the Oklahoma House passed a bill that would prohibit state and local enforcement of some future federal gun control. Enactment of this bill into law would take a step toward stopping federal acts that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms within the state.
Rep. David Hardin (R-Stilwell) filed House Bill 2984 (HB2984). The legislation would add some much-needed updates to a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” law enacted in 2021 that – in practice – created a sanctuary for absolutely nothing.
The current law declares certain federal acts relating to firearms to be an “infringement” and makes it “the duty of the courts and law enforcement agencies of this state to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and to bear arms within the borders of this state and to protect these rights from the infringement provided under the provisions of this act.” Lacking any specific actions or prohibition on actions for police or courts to follow, it’s almost certain they will take no action at all, instead deferring to the federal courts on any question of constitutionality.
HB2984 would give the law some impact in practice and effect by amending it with specific prohibitions on the enforcement of some future federal gun control.
The legislation would prohibit a peace officer, state employee, or employee of a political subdivision of the state from “enforcing, assisting in the enforcement of, or otherwise cooperating in the enforcement of a federal ban on firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition.” It would also bar any state or local official from expending public funds or allocating public resources for the enforcement of such a “federal ban.”
HB2984 defines a “federal ban” as “a federal law, executive order, rule or regulation that is enacted, adopted, or becomes effective on or after November 1, 2022, or a new and more restrictive interpretation of a law that existed on November 1, 2022, that infringes upon, calls in question or prohibits, restricts, or requires individual licensure for or registration of the purchase, ownership, possession, transfer, or use of any firearm, any magazine or other ammunition feeding device, or other firearm accessory.”
In practice, state and local government agents would be prohibited from enforcing any such federal acts.
The proposed law would also prohibit the state from retaliating against any sheriff or police officer that refuses to obey or enforce “any order which violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, Section 26 of Article II of the Constitution of Oklahoma or the peace officer oath of a peace officer.”
It remains unclear who would determine what constitutes a violation of the U.S. or Oklahoma constitutions, although under their Oath, Sheriffs should make that determination to the best of their ability, refusing to enforce measures they believe violate those constitutions rather than waiting for a court to tell them what they should stop doing.
On March 7, the House passed HB2984 by a 78-15 vote.
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 Oklahoma 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.
HB2984 will now move to the Senate for further consideration.
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