The federal government needs state and local support to enforce gun laws and the anti-gun lobby knows it.

On February 12, around 450 supporters of the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America descended on the state capitol to lobby for passage of a state bill that would bar anybody convicted of domestic violence from owning or possessing a firearm.

Rep. Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis) sponsored House Bill 960 (HB960). Under the proposed law, any person convicted of domestic assault or stalking would be barred from owning a firearm. According to supporters of the bill, the ban would be permanent.

Additionally, courts that issue a protection order for domestic violence would also prohibit the respondent from knowingly possessing or purchasing any firearm while the order is in effect. The Missouri Highway patrol would enforce the law.

Colleen Coble, CEO of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, noted that there is already a federal law on the books that prohibits people who have been convicted of domestic violence who have had a protective order issued against them from possessing a firearm.

So, if there is a federal law on the books, why are gun lobbyists pushing for a state law in Missouri?

Because the feds can’t enforce their law alone. As the News Tribune reported:

Moms Demand Action wants legislators to know it is inefficient to have a federal law with no way for the local police officer, or prosecutor or judge to enforce the law, Coble said.

“I don’t know about you, but in my neighborhood, I don’t routinely see an (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) officer,” she said. “And that’s where we are. That’s what the process is now. You would have to find a federal ATF officer to make your report to — that you’re a victim of domestic violence and the person who hurt you still has a firearm.”

Moms Demand Action figured out a very important truth. Don’t miss it because it’s huge.

The feds need state and local personnel and resources to enforce their gun laws. They can’t do it alone. The federal government already has laws on the books that do exactly what Moms Demand Action want done. But it doesn’t matter, practically speaking. There exists no way to enforce it unless the state empowers its police to do the job.

This is exactly why James Madison said “a refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union,” would “present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.”

In other words, states can stop federal gun control dead in its tracks by simply withdrawing enforcement support. Two bills introduced in the Missouri legislature would do just that.

Even the Supreme Court even supports this strategy. Refusal to participate in 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 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”

In short, states and localities have a great deal of power.  When they refuse to participate in the enforcement of federal programs, they can bring them to an end without relying on the federal government to limit itself.

Mike Maharrey

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