June 21, 2013

Federal nullification efforts mounting in states

By David A. Lieb / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Jim Sowash handles a rifle at his gun shop near Stover, Mo., on Thursday. Sowash signed a letter to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon urging him to sign a bill nullifying federal gun laws.

AP

"The states created this federal monster, and so it's time for the states to get their monster on a leash," said Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that local police could not be compelled to carry out provisions of a federal gun control law. But some states are now attempting to take that a step further by asserting that certain federal laws can't even be enforced by federal authorities.

A new Kansas law makes it a felony for a federal agent to attempt to enforce laws on guns made and owned in Kansas. A similar Wyoming law, passed in 2010, made it a misdemeanor. The Missouri bill also would declare it a misdemeanor crime but would apply more broadly to all federal gun laws and regulations — past, present, or future — that "infringe on the people's right to keep and bear arms."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter in late April to the Kansas governor warning that the federal government is willing to go to court over the new law.

"Kansas may not prevent federal employees and officials from carrying out their official responsibilities," Holder wrote.

Federal authorities in the western district of Missouri led the nation in prosecutions for federal weapons offenses through the first seven months of the 2013 fiscal year, with Kansas close behind, according to a data clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

Felons illegally possessing firearms is the most common charge nationally. But the Missouri measure sets it sights on nullifying federal firearms registrations and, among other things, a 1934 law that imposes a tax on transferring machine guns or silencers. Last year, the federal government prosecuted 83 people nationally for unlawful possession of machine guns.

So what would happen if a local prosecutor actually charges a federal agent for doing his or her job?

"They're going to have problems if they do it — there's no doubt about it," said Michael Boldin, executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center, a Los Angeles-based entity that promotes states' rights. "There's no federal court in the country that's going to say that a state can pull this off."

Yet states may never need to prosecute federal agents in order to make their point.

If enough states resist, "it's going to be very difficult for the federal government to force their laws down our throats," Boldin said.

Missouri's governor has not said whether he will sign or veto the bill nullifying federal gun laws. Meanwhile, thousands of people have sent online messages to the governor's office about the legislation.

Signing the measure "will show other states how to resist the tyranny of federal bureaucrats who want to rob you of your right to self-defense," said one message, signed by Jim and Arlena Sowash, who own a gun shop in rural Stover, Mo.

Others urged a veto.

"Outlandish bills like this — completely flouting our federal system — make Missouri the laughingstock of the nation," said a message written by Ann Havelka, of the Kansas City suburb of Gladstone.

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