A bill prefiled in the Texas House for the 2019 legislative session would set the foundation to nullify federal gun control in practice and effect.
Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) prefiled House Bill 238 (HB238) on November 12. The bill prohibits state agencies and law enforcement officers from having “contract with or in any other manner provide assistance to a federal agency or official with respect to the enforcement of a federal statute, order, rule, or regulation purporting to regulate a firearm, a firearm accessory, or firearm ammunition if the statute, order, rule, or regulation imposes a prohibition, restriction, or other regulation, such as a capacity or size limitation or a registration requirement, that does not exist under the laws of this state.”
The legislation also prohibits agencies from receiving grants if it is conditional upon enforcing federal gun control. Citizens are allowed to file complaints with the attorney general if state agencies or law enforcement officers violate this policy. The attorney general would also be required to defend any state agency sued by the federal government for refusing to enforce federal gun laws.
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 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 Texas 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.”
HB238 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.
Some gun rights supporters argue that such a measure is “unnecessary” because it addresses a nonexistent problem with a Republican Senate and an NRA-backed president.
“We’ve already heard talk of an unconstitutional bump stock ban, but even if we don’t get any new gun control in the next couple of 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.”
HB238 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.”
HB238 will be officially introduced when the 2019 regular session begins on Jan. 8. It will receive a committee assignment at that time.