GOP Legislators Placate NRA By Stripping Toothless Amendment From Gun Bill
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In the House, Republican Representative Chrissy Sommer introduced a bill in January that would create a Committee on the Tenth Amendment, to "Identify proposed federal legislation that infringes on Missouri's state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution."
The Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
That small paragraph has spawned a cottage industry of libertarian and anti-government advocates, "Tenthers," who argue that states possess the legitimate and even legal right to nullify federal law.
Mike Maharrey, national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center, concedes that parts of Missouri's nullification bill (like the criminal charges against federal agents enforcing gun laws) may get struck down by a court.
"I don't know how the courts would handle every aspect of the Missouri Second Amendment Preservation Act, but...if the courts would block the criminal penalties, the rest would remain," says Maharrey. "I'm convinced and 100 percent sure that the state cannot be required to enforce federal gun laws."
However, Burt Newman, a lawyer and adjunct professor at Washington University, says the legal arguments of Maherry and those like him are fundamentally flawed.
"He's wrong," Newman says flatly. "No court has ever brought this nullification principle and allowed it to stand in relation to a federal law."
Newman, who is married to anti-gun State Representative Stacey Newman, says these arguments for state supremacy don't stop at gun laws -- "What they're talking about is anarchy," he says.
"This goes to the heart of our country," Newman continues. "If one state can pick whatever federal laws it intends to pass, we will, in a relatively short amount of time, have chaos. Every state will be going by a difference set of rules and there will be no consistency. States wouldn't be able to trade with each other. Which state is going to decide that it's not going to pay federal taxes?"