On the Economic Advantages of Pointless LegislationPosted: February 8, 2013
A piece in today’s New York Times looks at efforts by state lawmakers to make it a state crime for federal agents to enforce new gun regulations. This gun-control-nullification trendlet, according to the Times, is “sweeping through statehouses from South Carolina to North Dakota.”
Tennessee, naturally, was in this game quickly. State Rep. Joe Carr of Rutherford County last month filed a bill making it a Class A misdemeanor for a federal agent to enforce any new federal regulation that restricts ownership of a semi-automatic firearm or ammunition, or requires any firearm to be registered in any manner.
And you know what? I’m for it! Oh, sure, it is of course an inane and patently unconstitutional bill that flies in the face of the U.S. Constitution’s Article VI Supremacy Clause. Granted, Tenth Amendment cultists do try to make a tortured case for its legality built on a contention that the Supremacy Clause applies only to things the federal government does that are constitutional. Since gun regulations lack constitutional validity, the thinking goes, then naturally those new federal gun laws aren’t supreme, and so the state can act to bar federal enforcement. Even Scalia’s dog won’t hunt that turkey of an argument.
But I’m for HB 42 (the Senate companion bill is SB 100) because of all the good it will do right up until the time it meets its inevitable (un)constitutional demise. First of all, just the act of litigating the constitutional issue will keep any number of lawyers, paralegals, and administrative assistants busy for months, and there sure are a lot of lawyers who need work. Also, the measure empowers the state attorney general to defend any Tennessee citizen who is prosecuted for firearms violations under new federal laws, which means more work for underemployed attorneys and better legal representation for criminal defendants. It turns out HB 42 isn’t a gun bill or a nullification bill; it’s a jobs bill!
The one question I have is why Tennessee’s gun-happy GOP lawmakers are being so timid. According to the Times story, a bill accomplishing essentially the same thing in Wyoming would allow that state to charge a federal agent with a felony punishable by five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Apparently we’re going soft on hallucinatory crime.
A version of this post appears on the Nashville Scene‘s Pith in the Wind blog.