COLUMBIA, S.C. (Jan. 26, 2021) – Two bills filed in the South Carolina House would set the foundation to end enforcement of federal gun control. Passage into law would represent a major step toward ending federal acts that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms within the state.
Rep Stewart Jones (R- Laurens) filed House Bill 3042 (H3042) on Dec. 9. The bill would prohibit enforcement of future federal gun control by banning any “personnel or property of this State, or any political subdivision of this State” from enforcing any “federal, state, or local act, law, order, rule, ordinance or regulation which restricts an individual’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms” enacted after January 2021.
State public funds would also be prohibited from use in enforcing such federal gun regulations.
Rep. Doug Gilliam (R- Buffalo) also filed House Bill 3119 (H3119) on Dec 9. It would prohibit the enforcement of “illegal gun laws” by state officials, which it defines to be “any federal, state, or local act, law, order, rule, ordinance or regulation” which restricts an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. The bill includes a list of specific actions that would count as a restriction, including the following:
- a tax, levy, fee, or stamp imposed on firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition not common to all other goods and services on the purchase or ownership of those items by citizens;
- a registration or tracking of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition;
- a registration or tracking of the owners of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition;
- an act forbidding the possession, ownership, use, or transfer of any type of firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition by citizens of the legal age of eighteen and over, other than pursuant to federal law background check requirements for transfers or purchases through federal firearms license dealers;
- an act ordering the confiscation of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition from citizens;
- a prohibition, regulation, or use restriction related to the ownership or the constitutionality guaranteed lawful use or carry of nonfully automatic firearms; and
- a prohibition, regulation, or use restriction limiting hand grips, stocks, flash suppressors, bayonet mounts, magazine capacity, bump stocks, suppressors, or types of ammunition available for sale, possession, or use by citizens.
Under H3119, infringement on the right to keep and bear arms should include the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968. Pres. Trump’s bump-stock ban, proposed federal “red-flag laws,” and any future gun control schemes implemented by the federal government.
The legislation includes a provision that would allow anybody who violates the law and knowingly deprives somebody of their right to keep and bear arms as defined by the law to be sued for damages in civil court for up to two thousand dollars:
“Sovereign, official, and qualified immunity are not affirmative defenses in cases pursuant to this section.”
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 and localities can nullify many federal actions in effect. As noted by the National Governors’ 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 state and local governments.
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, states and even local governments can help bring these unconstitutional acts to their much-needed end.”
The state of South Carolina can legally bar state agents from enforcing federal gun control. Refusal to cooperate with federal enforcement 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 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”
Both bills were referred to the House Committee on Judiciary where they must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
Originally appeared in Tenth Amendment Center.