COLUMBUS, Ohio (Oct. 11, 2023) – After a committee hearing on Tuesday, Ohio Speaker of the House Jason Stephens said he is committed to bringing a bill that would ban state and local enforcement of a wide range of federal gun control to the House floor for a vote in November. Passage into law would represent a major step toward effectively ending federal acts that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms within the state.
Rep. Mike Loychik and Rep. Jean Schmidt introduced House Bill 51 (HB51) on Feb. 15 and the bill has undergone numerous revisions since. The “Second Amendment Preservation Act” would ban state and local law enforcement officers from enforcing, attempting to enforce, or participating in the enforcement of any federal acts, executive orders, administrative orders, rules, regulations, statutes, or ordinances regarding firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition that are not mirrored in state law.
On Tuesday, the House Government Oversight Committee held its sixth hearing on HB51 and approved the latest revisions to the language. According to NBC4, the bill is expected to be brought up for a vote in the next couple of weeks.
The biggest news out of the hearing was an announcement by Chris Dorr with Ohio Gun Owners that Speaker Stephens announced on camera that he is planning a floor vote on HB 51 on Nov. 15.
“We have a pro-gun speaker of the House in full-blown support for this bill and he is promising to put this bill on the floor of the House for a full-blown freakin’ vote in November,” Dorr said.
Dorr emphasized that passage of the bill would end state enforcement of most federal gun control.
“They can pass whatever gun control they want. Ohio cops are not going to be Joe Biden’s or any future administration’s jack-booted thugs when it comes to enforcement.”
DETAILS OF THE LEGISLATION
In addition to banning state and local government employees, including law enforcement officers, from enforcing federal gun control not mirrored by state law, HB51 would also prohibit public officials from acceding to a request from another to give “material aid or support” to efforts to enforce the same. “Material aid or support” is defined as “voluntarily giving or allowing others to make use of lodging, communications equipment or services including social media accounts, facilities, weapons, personnel, transportation, clothing, or other physical assets.”
HB51 would remove all references to enforcing specific federal gun laws from Ohio statutes, including the “Gun Control Act of 1968,” and various sections of U.S. Code Title 18 that cover federal crimes. As Dorr explained, “Ohio law is written to reflect changes in federal law. That would be done away with.”
In practice, this would end state and local enforcement of a significant amount of gun control including President Trump’s bump-stock ban, along with President Biden’s executive orders regulating pistol braces and “80 percent lowers.”
Dorr specifically mentioned the pistol brace rules, saying they “would be done away with.”
Under the proposed law, the state of Ohio or any local government that employs a law enforcement officer who violates the law would be subject to a civil lawsuit and subject to a $50,000 penalty. Individuals would also have standing to sue for injunctive relief. Additionally, state and local government agencies would be subject to the same civil penalty for knowingly employing a former federal agent who knowingly violated the law.
The proposed law would allow public officers or employees of the state or a political subdivision of the state to request or accept aid from federal officials in an effort to enforce state laws by referring violent felony suspects for the prosecution of violations substantially similar to those found in state law “involving the use of a weapon, provided that such weapons violations are merely ancillary to that prosecution.” It would also allow “participating with federal law enforcement to enforce laws of the state or a political subdivision in any national integrated ballistic information network investigation or lead, or distributing such leads, whether or not through a crime gun intelligence center.” State and local law enforcement could also provide material aid or support to federal officials pursuing a suspect “when there is a demonstrable criminal nexus with another state or country and such suspect is either not a citizen of this state or is not present in this state.”
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 Ohio 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”
However, it’s important to note that 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 for any reason they choose.
HB51 still needs to be brought up for a vote and pass in the House Government Oversight Committee before moving forward in the legislative process. If you live in Ohio, you can help by calling your state representative and asking them firmly but politely to vote yes on HB51.
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