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“An Object Of Worship”: Mississippi Defies Feds In Brave Struggle To Bring Guns To Church

Of all the cultural divides in these allegedly “United” States, probably none is more stark than the chasm in attitudes toward possession of lethal weaponry. There used to be a general consensus that deadly force should, generally speaking, be monopolized by police officers; possession of, say, a handgun in one’s home, was an exception in recognition of exceptional circumstances. Shooting irons for hunting were another thing, but those were reserved for occasions when one was, you know, out in the woods hunting.

That may still be the prevailing attitude on the coasts, but the romance with heavily arming citizens to carry out their very own forms of justice is really running wild in parts of the heartland, where conservative lawmakers are outraged at the idea that there is anywhere on Earth that privately owned guns don’t belong, to the point of considering that the most important of all liberties.

The Great State of Mississippi is offering an illustration of this principle as we speak with the march toward enactment of legislation to recognize a right of concealed-carry in churches. And the Republican salons, who are promoting the cause of honoring the Prince of Peace by insisting on the right to shoot and kill people right there in His sanctuary, are preemptively concerned that the godless socialists in Washington might interfere. So once again, they’ve gone back to that fine antebellum doctrine of nullification to deny the power of the Feds — or at least the executive branch — to regulate firearms at all.  The Jackson Clarion-Ledger has the story:

The bill would allow churches to create security programs and designate and train members to carry concealed weapons. It would provide criminal and legal protections to those serving as church security.

The bill also would allow concealed carry in a holster without a permit in Mississippi, expanding a measure passed last year that allowed concealed carry without a permit in a purse, satchel or briefcase, and another recent law that allows open carry in public.

The bill also seeks to prohibit Mississippi officials from enforcing any federal agency regulations or executive orders that would violate the state constitution — an attempt to federal gun restrictions not passed by Congress.

Senators argued whether this last provision would violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Where did you go to law school?” Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, asked Tindell during the debate. “Are they telling people there that the Mississippi constitution trumps federal law? … You may have been wrong about things before, but you’ve never been more wrong than this. This is like arguing whether the freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This is embarrassing, hopeless.”

It’s also entirely predictable that people who think the absence of guns is more dangerous than their omnipresence would extend the principle everywhere, even to bars and, yeah, churches. Beyond that, we see the ongoing radicalization of Second Amendment ultras who think gun rights are not just part of the Constitution but fundamental to it and superior to any other provision — in effect, an object of worship. At some point, the Second Amendment could run afoul of the Bible’s Second Commandment against raising up idols.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 30, 2016

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Churches, Concealed Carry Laws, Nullification | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Crossing The Constitutional Line”: Gun Bill In Missouri Would Test Limits In Nullifying U.S. Law

Unless a handful of wavering Democrats change their minds, the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature is expected to enact a statute next month nullifying all federal gun laws in the state and making it a crime for federal agents to enforce them here. A Missourian arrested under federal firearm statutes would even be able to sue the arresting officer.

The law amounts to the most far-reaching states’ rights endeavor in the country, the far edge of a growing movement known as “nullification” in which a state defies federal power.

The Missouri Republican Party thinks linking guns to nullification works well, said Matt Wills, the party’s director of communications, thanks in part to the push by President Obama for tougher gun laws. “It’s probably one of the best states’ rights issues that the country’s got going right now,” he said.

The measure was vetoed last month by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, as unconstitutional. But when the legislature gathers again on Sept. 11, it will seek to override his veto, even though most experts say the courts will strike down the measure. Nearly every Republican and a dozen Democrats appear likely to vote for the override.

Richard G. Callahan, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, is concerned. He cited a recent joint operation of federal, state and local law enforcement officials that led to 159 arrests and the seizing of 267 weapons, and noted that the measure “would have outlawed such operations, and would have made criminals out of the law enforcement officers.”

In a letter explaining his veto, Mr. Nixon said the federal government’s supremacy over the states’ “is as logically sound as it is legally well established.” He said that another provision of the measure, which makes it a crime to publish the name of any gun owner, violates the First Amendment and could make a crime out of local newspapers’ traditional publication of “photos of proud young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer.”

But the votes for the measure were overwhelming. In the House, all but one of the 109 Republicans voted for the bill, joined by 11 Democrats. In the Senate, all 24 Republicans supported it, along with 2 Democrats. Overriding the governor’s veto would require 23 votes in the Senate and 109 in the House, where at least one Democrat would have to come on board.

The National Rifle Association, which has praised Mr. Nixon in the past for signing pro-gun legislation, has been silent about the new bill. Repeated calls to the organization were not returned.

Historically used by civil rights opponents, nullification has bloomed in recent years around a host of other issues, broadly including medical marijuana by liberals and the new health care law by conservatives.

State Representative T. J. McKenna, a Democrat from Festus, voted for the bill despite saying it was unconstitutional and raised a firestorm of protest against himself. “If you just Google my name, it’s all over the place about what a big coward I am,” he said with consternation, and “how big of a ‘craven’ I was. I had to look that up.”

The voters in his largely rural district have voiced overwhelming support for the bill, he said. “I can’t be Mr. Liberal, St. Louis wannabe,” he said. “What am I supposed to do? Just go against all my constituents?”

As for the veto override vote, he said, “I don’t know how I’m going to vote yet.”

State Representative Doug Funderburk, a Republican from St. Peters and the author of the bill, said he expected to have more than enough votes when the veto override came up for consideration.

Adam Winkler, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, who follows nullification efforts nationally, said that nearly two dozen states had passed medical marijuana laws in defiance of federal restrictions. Richard Cauchi, who tracks such health legislation for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said: “Since January 2011, at least 23 states have considered bills seeking to nullify the health care law; as of mid-2013 only one state, North Dakota, had a signed law. Its language states, however, that the nullification provisions ‘likely are not authorized by the United States Constitution.’ ”

What distinguishes the Missouri gun measure from the marijuana initiatives is its attempt to actually block federal enforcement by setting criminal penalties for federal agents, and prohibiting state officials from cooperating with federal efforts. That crosses the constitutional line, said Robert A. Levy, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute’s board of directors — a state cannot frustrate the federal government’s attempts to enforce its laws.

Mr. Levy, whose organization has taken a leading role in fighting for gun rights, said, “With the exception of a few really radical self-proclaimed constitutional authorities, state nullification of federal law is not on the radar scope.”

Still, other states have passed gun laws that challenge federal power; a recent wave began with a Firearms Freedom Act in Montana that exempts from federal regulations guns manufactured there that have not left the state.

Gary Marbut, a gun rights advocate in Montana who wrote the Firearms Freedom Act, said that such laws were “a vehicle to challenge commerce clause power,” the constitutional provision that has historically granted broad authority to Washington to regulate activities that have an impact on interstate commerce. His measure has served as a model that is spreading to other states. Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down Montana’s law, calling it “pre-empted and invalid.”

A law passed this year in Kansas has also been compared to the Missouri law. But Kris W. Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, disagreed, saying it had been drafted “very carefully to ensure that there would be no situation where a state official would be trying to arrest a federal official.”

In Missouri, State Representative Jacob Hummel, a St. Louis Democrat and the minority floor leader, said that he was working to get Democrats who voted for the bill to vote against overriding the veto. “I think some cooler heads will prevail in the end,” he said, “but we will see.”

Taking up legislative time to vote for unconstitutional bills that are destined to end up failing in the courts is “a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Mr. Hummel said, adding that more and more, the legislature passes largely symbolic resolutions directed at Congress.

“We’re elected to serve the citizens of the state of Missouri, at the state level,” he said. “We were not elected to tell the federal government what to do — that’s why we have Congressional elections.”

The lone Republican opponent of the bill in the House, State Representative Jay Barnes, said, “Our Constitution is not some cheap Chinese buffet where we get to pick the parts we like and ignore the rest.” He added, “Two centuries of constitutional jurisprudence shows that this bill is plainly unconstitutional, and I’m not going to violate my oath of office.”

Mr. Funderburk, the bill’s author, clearly disagrees. And, he said, Missouri is only the beginning. “I’ve got five different states that want a copy” of the bill, he said.

 

By: John Schwartz, The New York Times, August 28, 2013

August 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Line In The Sand”: The NRA Won’t Support Arizona’s New Gun Bill

Arizona is a place where you can get a family photograph with Santa holding an AK-47, where state lawmakers point pink pistols at reporters, and where men tote AR-15s to political protests. And if one state representative gets his way, gun-loving Arizonans won’t have to worry about pesky federal gun control laws, because it will be illegal to enforce them.

Republican state Rep. Steve Smith proposed a bill last week that would prohibit public officials in the state from following any federal gun laws or regulations, fearing an effort by the Obama administration to impose harsh new restrictions on firearms. That means no background checks, no restrictions on automatic weapons or grenade launchers, and no prohibition on sale to the mentally ill, unless the state enacts its own restrictions, none of which are laid out in Smith’s bill.

While there is no penalty specified for state and local officials who follow federal law, federal judges or law enforcement agents would face felony charges punishable by up to a year in state prison. “Here’s a line in the sand: Thanks, but no thanks. Stay out with your federal regulations you’re going to impose on us,” Smith said.

HB 2291 would almost certainly be unconstitutional, as federal law trumps state law, and Smith acknowledged that there would probably be legal challenges that would have to be worked out in the courts. But he appears to be trying to get around this problem by making his legislation apply only to firearms that are manufactured in and never leave the state of Arizona, presumably in an attempt to thwart the Commerce Clause, which allows Congress to regulate interstate trade. Still, the Supreme Court has not been sympathetic to similar arguments.

And the Constitution isn’t Smith’s only problem; he’s catching some friendly fire too. Todd Rathner, an Arizona resident who sits on the board of the National Rifle Association, told the Capitol News Service that he doesn’t like the bill because of what it would do to gun dealers, who must receive federal licenses and comply with federal regulations.

“I worry about putting federal firearms licensees in the middle of a fight between us and the federal government,” he said. “It puts them between a rock and a hard place because they worry about committing a federal crime or a state crime.”

Indeed, Smith’s law specifies that firearms dealers would be barred from following the regulations mandated by the federal government to maintain their license. Still, Rathner said of Smith’s proposal, “I like the message he’s trying to send.”

Arizona isn’t the only state considering what amounts to a lite form of secession over guns. In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant and state House Speaker Philip Gunn have both said they intend to block any new Obama executive orders on gun control. South Carolina lawmakers have made similar moves as well. But Arizona’s law goes much further, by not only restricting new regulations but also all existing ones, targeting “any act, law, statute, rule or regulation” from Washington on guns.

Also, keep in mind that the NRA’s objection to the legislation is not that it is unconstitutional or that it might make it easier for criminals to acquire weapons, but that it would hurt firearms dealers. If Smith rewrote the law to exempt dealers, one wonders if the NRA would be OK with the rest of it.

 

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, January 23, 2013

January 23, 2013 Posted by | Arizona, Guns | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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