4 years ago
Score one for modernity. Earlier this week, Montana’s legislature passed a nullification bill—a piece of legislation which would have forbidden Big Sky law enforcement from enforcing any new assault weapons ban or ban on high capacity magazines. Steve Bullock, the state’s Democratic governor, announced today that he was vetoing the bill, in part on the grounds that it is “unnecessary political theater.” (That would be because it aimed to nullify laws that don’t even exist yet.)
Nullification—the notion that states can negate federal laws they deem to be unconstitutional—is a doctrine dating to the 19th century that has repeatedly found itself on the wrong side of history, the courts, and the Constitution. And yet it continues to retain mystifying currency on the right, especially among state lawmakers.
The author’s prose is irrelevant and it doesn’t go down as recommended reading or a useful expenditure of your time. But Milo Townsend gives us a nice rebuttal in the comments.
Firstly, the notion of states nullifying unconstitutional federal Acts dates to the 18th, not the 19th century – none other than both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison urged nullification of President Adams’ Alien & Sedition Acts in 1798 in the first formal political expositions on nullification in U.S. history, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions.
Second, the doctrine of nullification is not only explicitly sanctioned by the Tenth amendment of the United States Constitution, but is integrally built in to the essential structure of the entire federal charter.
Milo then gives us a link to his article on understanding nullification. It’s all good and studied prose and does go down as recommended reading and a useful expenditure of your time. The money quote follows.
The fact is, that in order to see why “We, the People of the several States,” are perfectly in line with the Constitution when we undertake to judge of the constitutionality of the actions and decisions of any branch of the federal government, we need only to open our eyes first to the rationale that gave us our government in the first place. Once we imbibe a sobering dose of that tonic prescribed by our founding physicians, “a frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of liberty,” it will be evident – dare we say even “self-evident?” – that if our government is truly grounded in republican principles, and is truly a government “of the people, by the people,” then there can be no alternative except to recognize our own responsibility in making such judgments. It is our sovereignty, as free individuals, which gives legitimacy to any power of our system of government, at any level, including the power to undertake constitutional arbitration and interpretation; such powers, then, are therefore ours in primacy, and are only lent to our representatives conditionally. They can, thus, be withdrawn, resumed, or re-delegated at any time by us, the sovereign authorities within this federal republic. In short, the question of whether we, the people, may undertake to judge of the limits and powers of our own federal government is obviously and unequivocally, “Yes!”
And thus does Milo give us the philosophical and historical underpinnings of our republic and the right to hold the federal government accountable my more means than a simple vote. I have attempted to supply the theological underpinnings in previous articles.
So I have recommended numerous times that (a) the states arrest federal agents who enforce federal gun laws, (b) the states confiscate and destroy form 4473s in every gun shop in their respective states and order the owner to inform them if any ATF agent visits the store or attempts to arrests the owner, (c) the states place arrested federal agents in with the general prison population and prosecute them to the fullest extent of state law, (d) the states stop any additional federal agents from entering the state and forbid any federal agents from in any way assisting those arrested federal agents, and (e) the states enforce the laws of the states – including nullification – with the power of the National Guard or unorganized militia if necessary against the federal government.
If readers have seen this as boisterous chest-thumping, you have misunderstood it completely. My recommendations are serious. Furthermore, there is justification for such actions, theologically, philosophically and historically.