NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 12, 2018) – A bill introduced in the Tennessee House would prohibit state cooperation with enforcement of federal and international gun control, giving effect to legislation signed into law over the last two years. If passed, the law would help end any such gun control within the state in practice and effect.
Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) introduced House Bill 1407 (HB1407) last year and it carries over into the 2018 session.
The legislation would add a new section to current Tennessee law that would prohibit the use of public funds, personnel or property of the state, or its political subdivisions, for the implementation, regulation, or enforcement of any federal or international law, executive order, rule, or regulation regulating the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories.
Passage of HB1407 would help effectuate two foundational laws recently passed in Tennessee. In May 2015, Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill setting the foundation to prohibit the state from implementing or enforcing federal gun laws, rules, regulations and orders that are “contrary to the Tennessee state constitution.” A similar measure relating to gun control imposed by international law or treaty was signed into law last year. Both laws require additional action to be put into practical effect.
HB1407 would do just that. It builds on these two laws by specifically defining which federal and international acts that the state cannot implement or enforce; all that apply to “the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories.”
Passage of HB1407 would also immediately stop state and local cooperation with all federal gun control laws, rules, regulations, and orders, as well as any international agreements or treaties that attempt to do the same.
A companion bill (SB146) is pending in the Tennessee Senate.
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 can nullify in effect many federal actions. As noted by the National Governor’s 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 effectively method to bring down federal gun control measures because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from the states.
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 schemes, the states can effectively bring them down.”
Boldin also noted how the same strategy is being used effectively elsewhere. “No one – and I mean no one – is arguing that immigration sanctuary cities aren’t having an effect on federal immigration law. This bill in Tennessee uses the same approach of withdrawing resources and enforcement support, but it takes on federal gun control,” he said. “More conservative states should do the exact same thing.”
Some gun rights supporters argue that such a measure is “unnecessary” because it addresses a nonexistent problem with a Republican Congress and an NRA-backed president.
“While we’re not expecting any new gun control to come from the federal government in the next few years, there’s still a lot of unconstitutional federal gun control measures on the books today,” Boldin said. “Whether it’s the National Firearms Act of 1934 or the Gun Control Act of 1968, plus many others – the states can build a constitutional wall that protects them from the unconstitutional ATF.”
HB1407 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 four Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. US 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.”
HB1407 is scheduled for a hearing in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on Jan. 17. It must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.