The Second Amendment And States’ Rights
This past Wednesday night, the Missouri legislature passed a series of bills during a late night session. One of these late night bills was aimed directly at the federal government. It is a bill that is designed to “protect” the residents of Missouri of their Second Amendment rights from the federal government. The bill states that all federal gun laws are banned within the state and enforcement of such laws is a misdemeanor. Residents would also be allowed to openly carry any gun that is 16-inches or smaller. It allows for school districts to designate certain teachers and administrators the right to carry a gun on school property. If a teacher or administrator does not carry a gun and has been designated to do so, that person can be terminated. School officials can also detain anyone they believe is violating the law for up to four-hours before they have to turn the person over to the authorities.
The first bit I’ve written about several times in the past. States cannot nullify federal laws (or the US Constitution). It’s fairly simple. Here’s how it sets up… local, county, state, federal, US Constitution. Each step is above the one before it. Local can’t nullify county. County can’t nullify state. State can’t nullify federal. And nothing can nullify the US Constitution. Now each level is supposed to have limited powers. Even the US Constitution sets the limited powers of the federal government and our rights as citizens. If the federal government has passed legislation that violates its powers under the US Constitution, it is not up to the states to nullify the legislation. The state must challenge it in the courts, and it is up to the courts to decide whether the law is unconstitutional or not. Nullification has been tried again and again throughout our history, and it has not worked. One of the earliest nullification “crisis” this country face came in 1828 under President Andrew Jackson. The main disagreement at this time was over tariffs. Critics of the tariff claimed that the tariff on manufactured goods being imported from Europe made them more expensive than goods manufactured in the US. Southern politicians claimed that it benefited the northern states at the expense of the southern ones. South Carolina, along with Vice-President Calhoun, declared that it had the right to nullify the tariff legislation of 1828 and any federal law that went against its interest. President Jackson, being a southerner, sympathized with the South in the tariff debate but also believed in a strong union. He threatened to send federal troops to South Carolina to enforce the laws, and even threatened to hang Vice-President Calhoun. In December 1832, President Jackson proclaimed, “the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.”
In 1999, voters in the state of Missouri narrowly rejected “conceal and carry.” However, the state legislature overrode the will of the voters in 2003 and passed it. This is not the only time the state legislature of Missouri has overridden a ballot initiative that the voters have rejected. Now the legislature in this bill is going a step further now and stating that we can openly carry any gun that is 16-inches or less. Is law enforcement actually going to measure the length of someone’s gun? Yes, it means you can’t openly carry a shotgun around but case in point with any handgun. St. Louis is usually ranked near the top of the violent cities list (whether it’s accurate or not is debatable). However, you still can’t turn on the news at night without seeing reports of someone being shot. How does this solve the violence that plagues the city? More people walking around with guns… openly walking around with guns… and not all of them have gone through a background check. It honestly does not make me feel any safer. During the debate in the House, Rep. Doug Funderburk (R-St. Peters) stated, “I bet those folks in Boston wish they had guns in their home when terrorists were running around with bombs.” The logical question to ask is what would this have accomplished. Just because the FBI is looking for someone (even someone guilty of a bombing) doesn’t mean they have the right person. Are we going to become a vigilante society? Are we going to go out and hunt down anyone the FBI says committed a crime before we have answers or even know if we even have the right person. In a point I raised in an earlier article, we don’t always have the right suspect. My example is the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. The FBI zeroed in on one guy. The media dragged this guy through the mud. And yet, it was later discovered that he was not the right person. The right person was later found and is now in prison. However, an innocent man was still trashed, his life was disrupted, and if it happened today, we as a society would ready to lynch this person. Now in the case of Boston, someone could have used a gun to keep the suspect(s) at bay or even protect one’s self in the event that it was threatened directly… until proper law enforcement could get there. It’s not as if Massachusetts doesn’t have a “conceal and carry” law and that citizens don’t have the right to own a gun there. It’s considered a “may-issue” state wherein it is usually left to local authorities. Rural Massachusetts is permissive, but Boston is restrictive. That doesn’t mean people can’t own a gun there. They just don’t have the same freedoms as people in rural Massachusetts. Even with this, it makes Rep. Funderburk’s argument completely baseless.
Moving to the school issue, I’m not really trying to debate whether having armed personnel in schools is a good or bad idea. I’m not sure if selecting teachers to arm themselves is a good idea. This legislation is a direct result of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Is this what society is coming to? That we have to have guns around us 24/7 in order to feel safe anywhere. I could maybe see an armed guard or even an administrator, but not the teachers. And if we are going to put armed personnel in schools, then we need to make sure they are heavily trained and go through thorough background checks. The part of this particular legislation that gets to me the most, though, is that a person can be fired for not bringing a gun if they are selected to be one of those that is supposed to bring one. What if someone is selected even though they object to it or they don’t already own one? Is the school going to pay for this person to purchase a gun in order for them to keep their job? Somehow I see this argument boiling down to taxes. Most school districts wouldn’t be able to afford hiring armed personnel. Arming teachers and administrators probably wouldn’t cost any additional funds, but there are problems that need to be worked out with that. Teachers, of all things though, should be more focused on teaching and less about being armed. Last time I checked, they aren’t law enforcement officers. As for the school district having the right to hold anyone they suspect of breaking the law for 4-hours before they contact law enforcement, I have to ask if that only pertains to adults or are the students included in this. Minors cannot be questioned without a parent or guardian present. That is unlawful. And questioning for 4-hours, what are they? The FBI? I could see some initial questions being asked, but law enforcement should be contacted within the hour if there is a legitimate threat or someone is breaking the law. Again, I stress that it is not up to the school to become law enforcement.
Senate Majority Whip Brian Nieves (R-Washington) posted on his Facebook page, “Tonight (Wed) was an historic night for Missouri and her citizens. Our private property rights, our court system, and the assertion of our 2nd amendment rights were all impacted positively by the final passage of three of my 2013 Bills!” Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) replied by stating, “I don’t know why this body continues to turn its back and make fun of gun violence victims. It’s not a funny matter. I don’t find it amusing.” Republicans hold a veto-proof majority in both chambers of the legislature. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon has not yet stated whether he will sign the bill or not. However, if the bill comes law either by Governor Nixon’s signature or a veto override may be inconsequential since it is likely to be challenged in court. US Attorney General Eric Holder warned the state of Kansas last week that their new law that states that federal gun laws do not apply to guns within the state is unconstitutional. It would seem the Missouri law would face this same test. Again I stress that a state cannot nullify a federal law merely challenge a federal law’s constitutionality in the court system. And should a person be terminated from their job simply because they invoke their right not to own a gun? In this completely separate issue, I think the state of Missouri, in their attempt to prop-up the right to own a gun, has stepped on the right not to own one. We are not a vigilante society. We are not a lynch mob justice system. We have the right to own a gun to protect ourselves. Law abiding citizens can easily pass a background check and own the firearm of their choice. This is not in debate. But we do not have the right to take law enforcement or justice into our own hands. We are not mob rule. We are a society based on laws… laws that make sense.
Sen. Nieves referenced three bills in his quote. I only discussed one of them on here.