BOISE, Idaho, March 17, 2014 – Federal gun laws may soon not apply in Idaho, which could become the latest in a series of states acting to nullify federal gun laws within its borders. Both the Idaho House and Senate have unanimously passed the Idaho Federal Firearm, Magazine and Register Ban Enforcement Act, or S.B. 1332, which would effectively nullify future federal gun laws by prohibiting state enforcement of any federal act related to personal firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition. Idaho’s legislation follows similar moves by Arizona, Florida, and Missouri.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 68-0 and the Senate by 34-0. It is now confirmed delivered to Idaho Governor Butch Otter for a signature. This bill, if passed into law, would:
Protect Idaho law enforcement officers from being directed, through federal executive orders, agency orders, statutes, laws, rules, or regulations enacted or promulgated on or after the effective date of this act, to violate their oath of office and Idaho citizens’ rights under Section 11, Article I, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho.
The legislation also stipulates penalties on anyone attempting to enforce nullified laws within Idaho:
Any official, agent or employee of the state of Idaho or a political subdivision thereof who knowingly and willfully orders an official, agent or employee of the state of Idaho or a political subdivision of the state to enforce any executive order, agency order, law, rule or regulation of the United States government as provided in subsection (2) of this section upon a personal firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition shall, on a first violation, be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) which shall be paid into the general fund of the state.
Of note is the language that stipulates “on or after the effective date of this act”, because this differentiates S.B. 1332 from other legislation proposed in states such as Arizona and Florida to resist all federal infringement on the right to bear arms. Idaho’s bill would apply to future as well as existing federal gun laws.
The Tenth Amendment Center asserts that the legislation rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. That means the federal government cannot “commandeer” or coerce states into implementing or enforcing federal acts or regulations — constitutional or not.
The anti-commandeering doctrine rests on four Supreme Court cases: Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842) New York v. United States (1992) , Printz v. United States (1997 ) and Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012). According to the Tenth Amendment Center, Printz v. United States (1997) serves as the lynchpin for the anti-commandeering doctrine. The case specifically addressed state enforcement of federal gun laws. At issue was a provision in the Brady Gun Bill that required county law enforcement officers to administer part of the background check program. Sheriffs Jay Printz and Richard Mack sued, arguing these provisions unconstitutionally forced them to administer a federal program. The Supreme Court agreed, ruling:
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.
Should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.
Judge Andrew Napolitano last year urged states to pass this type of non-compliance legislation, saying that a single state passing such a law would “make federal enforcement of tighter federal gun laws nearly impossible.” Supporters of the Second Amendment Preservation Act, S.B. 129, view the legislation as protecting the Second Amendment rights of Arizona citizens. Supporters also note that other states have enacted or are in the process of enacting similar laws to stop federal legislation in violation of the Second Amendment and other protected rights.
Last year, Kansas passed a law that “bars the federal government from regulating guns and ammunition manufactured and stored within Kansas state lines.” The Kansas law criminalizes federal law enforcement, making any attempt to enforce federal laws a felony if the gun is made in Kansas, stamped “Made in Kansas”, and has not crossed states lines. Missouri is also considering a bill that nullifies federal gun laws within state borders. Florida is also considering a bill to prevent any “agent of the state or its political subdivisions [from participating] with or [assisting] federal agents in the enforcement of federal firearms laws.”
The Idaho Legislature unanimously passed the law to keep any future federal gun measures from being enforced in the state. Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed a bill which nullifies future federal gun laws.
This article was originally published on The Brenner Brief. Original author, Matt MacBradaigh. Original publish date Mar 18, 2013.