CHARLESTON, W.V., January 15, 2014 — West Virginia state delegate Cindy Frich and five cosponsors have introduced a bill to block the implementation of federal gun-control measures within the state.
House Bill 2832 (HB2832), the “Firearm Protection Act,” prohibits all state public servants from enforcing any “act, law, statute, rule or regulation of the United States Government relating to a personal firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition,” provided that the item in question remains “exclusively within the borders of West Virginia.”
Based on a principle with over 170 years of Supreme Court jurisprudence, HB2832 stands on strong legal grounds.
Under the anti-commandeering doctrine, the federal government holds no power to require a state to help carry out federal acts or regulatory programs. As Georgetown Law Professor Randy Barnett recently told National Journal, “State governments are free to refrain from cooperating with federal authorities if they so choose.”
The Supreme Court has upheld this doctrine repeatedly from 1842 to 2012. “There is absolutely no serious discussion opposing anti-commandeering,” said Mike Maharrey, national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center. “On top of it, this is just what James Madison advised the people and states to do if they wanted to thwart federal acts.”
Writing in Federalist no. 46, Madison advised a series of actions which he said would be an effective way to stop both unconstitutional and constitutional federal acts. He referred to them as either “warrantable” or “unpopular.”
These actions included using state “legislative devices” and a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union.”
“The federal government simply does not have the manpower or resources to enforce the countless laws they have on the books,” said Maharrey. “All one needs for proof is the miserable failure that the Obama administration has experienced while trying harder than any president in history to stop states rights on marijuana. After a while, they had to throw in the towel.”
In 2013, Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano weighed in on the subject as well, suggesting that a single state refusing to enforce federal gun laws would make them “nearly impossible to enforce.”
HB2832 has been referred to the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee, where it will need to pass by majority vote before going to the House floor for further consideration.
Track the status of similar legislation around the country here.