Last week, a law went into effect in Kansas that made it illegal to enforce federal gun control laws in the state of Kansas if the guns were manufactured, sold and kept in Kansas. In just a week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has mobilized his efforts to try and squash the law, threatening legal action.
It’s not a bad response time for a man who, allegedly, had no idea about the illegal gun-running scheme that was operating out of his office and who has been unable to get to the bottom of it in over three years.
Today, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback received a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder threatening the Governor with legal action in response to his signing of the bill that rejects federal intervention on Kansas gun issues. Claiming that the federal government had no authority to regulate purely Kansas state affairs, Governor Brownback signed the bill, claiming that the lack of interstate commerce precluded federal involvement.
Calling the new law unconstitutional, Holder wrote,
“In purporting to override federal law and to criminalize the official acts of federal officers, SB102 directly conflicts with federal law and is therefore unconstitutional…
Under the Supremacy Clause…Kansas may not prevent federal employees and officials from carrying out their official responsibilities. And a state certainly may not criminalize the exercise of federal responsibilities. Because SB102 conflicts with federal firearms laws and regulations, federal law supercedes this new statute; all provisions of federal laws and their implementing regulations therefore continue to apply.”
Holder concluded the letter with a bold posturing:
“I am writing to inform you that federal law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the United States Attorney’s Office…will continue to execute their duties to enforce all federal firearms laws and regulations.”
As the scope of the federal government has broadened, more and more states have begun to voice opposition to federal enforcement of laws that run contrary to their own and, it is argued, contrary to Constitutional protections.
In fact, on Tuesday, the Alabama State Senate voted to nullify all federal gun control laws that the state sees as violations of the Second Amendment and its protections. The bill passed with as astounding 24-6 majority.
Holder’s argument will likely not hold up. First and foremost, the legal challenge could hardly withstand minor scrutiny as the Kansas law does not prohibit Constitutional action; in fact, it does precisely the opposite as it clearly outlines the adherence to the Second Amendment. If the Kansas law seeks to support the legitimate federal law outlined in the Bill of Rights, it cannot rightfully be claimed by Holder that the Supremacy Clause can force Kansas to do much of anything.
Secondly, the enforcement of this bold, legal threat is practically non-existent. The federal government must allocate resources and the federal government cannot justify the amount of time, money and effort it would take to enforce their will on the state with such widespread noncompliance.
And lastly, Michael Boldin, Founder of the Tenth Amendment center, explains that legal challenges such as this have a poor track record,
“The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act was a federal law that basically required all states in the north to act as slave catchers for black people claimed as property in the South. It’s one of the most disgusting acts in American history. A number of northern states passed laws similar to the new Kansas law, criminalizing federal agents for attempting to kidnap people in their states. Although the feds still claimed the same kind of authority that Eric Holder has claimed today, they didn’t have the manpower to enforce. Read more about that here. As an aside, if Holder would like to take the position that such resistance to federal slave laws was wrong, he’s welcome to publicly state that.”
Holder’s positions often have less to do with the enforcement of the law and more to do with the wrangling of wayward states that do not conform to the Obama Administration’s agenda. Mr. Holder can rant and rave but on this matter, his bark has no bite.