Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Can States Ignore Federal Laws?

The Shorthorn
Actually, though, the Civil War long ago resolved the question of whether a state or a state official can nullify or refuse to comply with federal law. Laws passed by Congress are, as the Constitution states and as the war validated, “the supreme law of the land.” Further, the Constitution provides that “Judges in every state shall be bound thereby.” So, too, are state legislators who swear, as part of their oath of office, to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Laws passed by Congress cannot be ignored by state officials, whether they like the laws or not. But any law deemed to violate the liberties of the people or the sovereignty of the state may be challenged through the courts.
Interesting. The professor indroduced that observation after referencing some of the states that are rushing to pass legislation that they will not be bound by future gun laws.

What do you think?  Please leave a comment.


  1. Although the professor is correct in the historical context (that the constitution endows the Federal Government with legislative authority over all American soil, when acting in accordance with the "enumerated" powers that Congress is granted in the Constitutional text) his statement becomes a moot point with respect to the State legislation in question.

    As Congress derives it's power to outright regulate the possession, sale, and use of a product or substance (such as firearms) from the power to regulate interstate commerce as stated in Article I Section 8, the States in question have circumvented the scope of Congressional Authority by only excepting firearms which have been maintained within the borders of the State in question (and have therefore not affected interstate commerce). The only manner in which the current Federal Law (National Firearms Act of 1934 and Gun Control Act of 1968) could be interpreted to apply to such weapons which have been proliferated and maintained within a single State, would require the use of the Gonzales v. Raich (one of the ever-expanding interpretations of Wickard v. Filburn) ruling which stated that a substance (marijuana grown on ones personal property) may be subject to Congressional regulation if such would effect the price or demand for a identical or similar product traded through interstate commerce. Such an interpretation of the "necessary and proper clause" would therefore serve to provide continued legal basis for the current regulation.

    Regardless of such an extension of Wickard v. Filburn (which may be overturned by today's court) Congress ought to rewrite the law to require States to enact all provisions of the current Federal Law into their State penal codes, and enforce such with threat of suspension of highway funding (the same manner that the NMLS -the 55 mph speed limit- and the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984) as such would be a Constitutionally acceptable means of guaranteed enforcement.

    Greg, If you are to comment in response, I suggest that you make an argument based on some relevant legislation or legal precedent, rather than your usual attempt at an ad hominem regarding the phonetics of my name.

  2. You might also consider the impact of Printz v. United States which touches on this more than a little.

  3. Can states ignore Federal laws? I give you California. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under Federal law, regardless of the purpose. And yet, the Brady Bunch gold star state of California rejects the Feds and does what it pleases.

    Is this legal? Myeh... The Feds overstep their authority all the time. If I grow something in my back yard and use it myself, there should be no Federal involvement whatsoever. If I sell it to my neighbor, ditto. The Feds claim that I might sell the plant across state lines, but properly speaking, they should have to prove that I did that, not get their tights in a wad that I might.

  4. Didn't some states recently pass laws re-legalizing weed?

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