PHOENIX, Ariz. (April 17, 2023) – Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs has vetoed a bill that would decriminalize firearm sound suppressors in the state, and effectively end state enforcement of National Firearms Act (NFA) restrictions on the same.
Sen. Wendy Rogers and four fellow Republicans introduced Senate Bill 1109 (SB1109) on Jan. 31. The legislation would remove “a device that is designed, made or adapted to muffle the report of a firearm” from the state’s list of “prohibited weapons.” In effect, the bill would legalize the possession of firearm “silencers” in Arizona law.
Additionally, under an Arizona law passed in 2021, the enactment of SB1109 would simultaneously end state enforcement of federal regulations on firearm sound suppressors as well.
The Arizona House passed SB1109 by a 31-28 vote after the Senate approved the measure by a 16-13 vote.
In her April 11 veto letter, Hobbs wrote that “guns silencers have long been prohibited weapons in Arizona, along with fully-automatic firearms and sawed-off shotguns. Ensuring the safety of all Arizonans is a priority of my administration. Legalizing silencers, or any other weapon that is currently on the ‘prohibited weapon’ list, will make Arizonans less safe.”
Apparently, Hobbs is unfamiliar with the Arizona State Constitution, which states:
The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the state shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain, or employ an armed body of men.
And in fact, there is nothing inherently dangerous about firearm sound suppressors. Suppressors simply muffle the sound of a gun. They do not literally silence firearms. According to the American Suppressor Association, “Suppressors reduce the noise of a gunshot by an average of 20 – 35 dB, which is roughly the same as earplugs or earmuffs.” The organization called suppressors “the hearing protection of the 21st-century sportsman.”
IMPACT ON FEDERAL ENFORCEMENT
Nevertheless, the federal government heavily regulates silencers under the National Firearms Act. The feds charge a $200 tax on the purchase of the devices. Buying one also requires months-long waits after filing extensive paperwork with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Passed in 2021, HB2111 bans the state and all political subdivisions of the state from “using any personnel or financial resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with any act, law, treaty, order, rule or regulation of the United States government that is inconsistent with any law” of the state of Arizona regarding the regulation of firearms.
Since the passage of SB1109 would legalize firearm sound suppressors and remove all state restrictions on the same, federal laws regulating them would become “inconsistent” with state law. That would end state and local cooperation with enforcement of the federal regulations.
In effect, under HB2111, any law limiting state gun control such as this firearm suppressor bill simultaneously ends state enforcement of similar federal gun control, providing a one-two punch.
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. 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.
But the real measure of whether or not the law has any impact rests with the people of Texas themselves. (learn more in this podcast)
The state of Texas 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. (1997) serves as the cornerstone. For the majority, Justice Scalia wrote, in part:
“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 policymaking 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.
Given the narrow margins of passage in both the House and Senate, a veto override is unlikely.
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