A bill introduced in the North Dakota House would set the foundation to nullify federal gun control in practice and effect, and put North Dakota on the path to becoming a gun sanctuary state.
A coalition of 12 Republican representatives and senators, including assistant majority leader Rep. Scott Louser, introduced House Bill 1309 (HB1309) on Jan. 3. The legislation would bar any state agency, political subdivision, law enforcement officer or state employee from contracting with or providing assistance to a federal agency or official in the enforcement of a federal statute, order, rule, or regulation purporting to regulate a firearm, firearm accessory, or firearm ammunition in most situations.
State agencies could only cooperate with enforcement of a federal gun law if the offense also violates state law or if the federal agency appeals to the state district court of the county in which the violation occurred, and the court finds probable cause that a national security threat exists.
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” provides an extremely effective 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 North Dakota 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.”
HB1309 represents a strategic yet powerful step forward. If it passes into law, gun rights activists should then direct their strategy and resources towards repealing state restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. Every repeal would then include an immediate ban on resources for enforcement of any similar federal law or regulation.
After Donald Trump was elected, a lot of activists argued such a state measure was “unnecessary” because it addressed a “nonexistent problem” with a Republican-controlled Congress and an NRA-backed president. But as we learned with the implementation of Trump’s bump-stock ban, electing Republicans to office doesn’t guarantee the protection of your right to keep and bear arms. And we’ve already seen a shift in political power with Democrats taking control of the U.S. House.
Boldin said states always need to push back against federal gun control, no matter who holds power at the time, and even if we don’t think new gun laws are coming down the pike.
“Even if we hadn’t gotten new gun control, there’s still a lot of unconstitutional federal gun control measures on the books today. 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.”
HB1309 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 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.”
HB1309 was referred to Energy and Natural Resources Committee where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.