With proponents of gun control emboldened and opponents of gun control embattled at the Federal level, it was probably only a matter of time before states started trying to flex their muscles over the question of any new regulations.
Last week, Wyoming fired the proverbial first shot. Texas, Mississippi and Tennessee followed soon. And now, the battle has spread to a state that President Obama himself carried: Virginia.
The Virginia Pilot reports the Virginia House of Delegates recently voted a bill out of committee that would effectively ban Virginia’s law enforcement community from enforcing any new regulations on gun rights by the Federal government.
This experiment in what looks an awful lot like the constitutionally discredited tactic of nullification, however, may be less inflammatory than it appears at first blush. The original Virginian-Pilot story suggests that Virginia’s gun rights advocates think the bill is simply a symbolic bit of posturing with no actual power:
For at least one gun enthusiast, the measure has a laudable intent that doesn’t go far enough.
“If we don’t put some teeth into it, it’ll be useless,” Mike McHugh of the Virginia Gun Owners Coalition told the committee. “I think we’re coming to a point in this country where the states are going to have to finally decide – and I hope it doesn’t end up like years ago – that we’re going to have to face down Barack Obama’s federal plantation.”
Asked what sort of “teeth” he meant, McHugh cited a proposed measure in Texas that would “put in jail any federal officer that dared to violate the sacred soil of Texas.”
So who’s right? We took a look at the bill itself, and it looks as though any alarmism over a constitutional crisis is probably unwarranted. It says something, for instance, that the bill is so short that we can post the full text:
1. § 1. Notwithstanding any contrary provision of law, no agency of the Commonwealth as defined in § 8.01-385 of the Code of Virginia, no political subdivision of the Commonwealth as defined in § 8.01-385 of the Code of Virginia, and no employee of either, acting in his official capacity, shall:
(A) knowingly aid any employee or entity of the federal government of the United States in any investigation, prosecution, detention, or arrest, nor participate in any search or seizure, relating to any, criminal, civil, or administrative restrictions on firearms, firearm magazines, ammunition, or components thereof, based on any federal statute enacted, or Executive Order or regulation issued, after December 31, 2012; or
(B) knowingly aid any employee or entity of the federal government of the United Sates in conducting, or the enforcement of any requirement for, any background check related to any intrastate sale, loan, gift, or other transfer of firearms between citizens of the Commonwealth who do not possesses any federal firearms license under 18 U.S.C. section 293.
Readers should notice an important omission in the bill: It does not specify any punishments for transgressing it. As such, law enforcement could arguably treat the bill as meaningless, symbolic dictum, and there’s no legal guarantee that any sort of repercussions would be forthcoming. Then again, the absence of teeth may be what makes the bill passable in the first place.
(H/T: Business Insider)