Saturday, December 13, 2014

Weaseling around federal gun laws

I was all set to write a simple post about a series of bills filed by state legislators that declare federal law doesn't apply to them, much the same way local food supporters in Maine attempted to use municipal ordinances to overcome state and federal law. I was ready to declare it stupid, then pay myself a big compliment for overcoming my own biases and taking a nuanced position against my own allies.

Instead, I found a complex issue that reveals a lot of hypocrisy and double-standards. For the most part, this is about exploiting loopholes and weaseling around federal laws that themselves only exist because of a loophole.

Here's what Washington Post wrote about these bills:

Two types of bills are the primary vehicles for the movement, both based on model legislation introduced in statehouses from Tallahassee to Juneau. 
The first type holds that federal laws do not apply to firearms manufactured and sold within a given state, relying on the Constitution’s interstate commerce clause. It says Congress can regulate trade between states, but says nothing about trade within states. 
Under Utah law, for example, guns made, purchased and used in the state are exempt from federal laws. Commonly known as the Firearms Freedom Act, versions of the law have been debated during 78 legislative sessions across 37 states in the last decade. 
The other approach says gun regulation falls outside the scope of the federal government’s power, making it state territory. Such bills, often known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act, usually say state officials cannot enforce federal gun laws or limit the ability to do so, and some bills have tried to impose penalties on officers who help federal officials.

See the trick now? The federal gun control laws were written by abusing the commerce clause, the section in the Constitution that gives congress the power to pass laws on things that could effect trade between states. The commerce clause has long been twisted and stretched to justify the passage of virtually any federal law.

So some law makers are turning this around by saying, if we have guns manufactured within our state that never cross the border, than the commerce clause is irrelevant and the federal gun restriction is invalid.

Will that stand up in a federal court? No, but the sentiment is great. They are cheating the cheaters and playing the same stupid weasel game as the federal lawmakers.

So what about the second type of bill, where state lawmakers restricting their own agencies from cooperating with federal agencies who are enforcing federal gun laws? Well, this is clearly a weasel tactic, but it's nothing new.

Liberal states have been banning their police agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities for years, including my home state of Massachusetts. It's a practice I don't like one bit in any context, even though I want to see less restriction on immigration and gun ownership. If you're going to take a stand against one, you have to take a stand against the other.

State lawmakers can not overrule federal lawmakers, and these tactics are pretty lowly, but let's not pretend they are any worse than the existing laws on the books.

1 comment:

  1. Actually it may stand up in federal court. The original Gun Free School Zone Act was held to be unconstitutional because the feds lacked authority to do such regulation, subsequently the bill was rewritten and passed again to apply only to arms that had traveled in interstate commerce.