OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (Jan. 25, 2023) – A bill filed in the Oklahoma Senate would prohibit state and local enforcement of some current and future federal gun control. The passage of this bill would take a step toward stopping some federal acts that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms in the state.
Sen. Tom Woods filed Senate Bill 736 (SB736) for introduction when the Oklahoma Senate convenes on Feb. 6. The legislation would put some teeth in a “Second Amendment Sanctuary State Act,” passed in 2021 that has little to no practical effect.
SB736 would amend that law to prohibit state and local government agencies and their employees 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 prohibit state and local agencies from expending public funds for the enforcement of the same.
A “federal ban” is defined as “a federal law, executive order, rule, or regulation that is enacted, adopted, or that 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 into question, 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 accessories.”
The approach is similar to a Montana law that went into effect in 2021.
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.
SB736 will be officially introduced on Feb. 6 and referred to a committee where it must get a hearing and pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
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