Vice President Joe Biden will not deliver his suggestions for gun violence prevention measures to the President until Tuesday. But, in a move that is as unconstitutional as it is presumptuous, lawmakers in Wyoming have already mounted their effort to block whatever legislative measures Biden might suggest. They aim to nullify any federal law that they do not like, and to create punishments for federal agents who might try to enforce new gun safety measures.
In a bill sponsored by eight representatives and two state senators, the lawmakers stipulate that “any federal law which attempts to ban a semi-automatic firearm or to limit the size of a magazine of a firearm or other limitation on firearms in this state shall be unenforceable in Wyoming.” These two measures have been among Biden’s proposals. The Wyoming bill also makes it a felony to enforce federal gun laws:
Any official, agent or employee of the United States government who enforces or attempts to enforce any act, order, law, statute, rule or regulation of the United States government upon a personal firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition that is owned or manufactured commercially or privately in Wyoming and that remains exclusively within the borders of Wyoming shall be guilty of a felony. and, upon conviction, shall be subject to imprisonment for not more less than one (1) year and one (1) day or more than five (5) years, a fine of not more than two thousand dollars ($2,000.00) five thousand dollars ($5,000.00), or both[…]
Any federal law, rule, regulation or order created or effective on or after January 1, 2013shall be unenforceable within the borders of Wyoming if the law, rule, regulation or order attempts to:
(i) Ban or restrict ownership of a semiautomatic firearm or any magazine of a firearm; or
(ii) Require any firearm, magazine or other firearm accessory to be registered in any manner.
There’s just one glaring problem with the legislators’ plan: If the federal government were to pass such measures, the bill would be unconstitutional.
The constitutional theory they are implementing is called “nullification” — where a state nullifies a federal law, in this case gun safety measures. The constitution actually stipulates that federal law “shall be the supreme law of the land.”
But the lawmakers seem to be ignoring that issue. Wyoming State Senator Larry Hicks tells the Washington Examiner that the he believes the measure is constitutional under the tenth and second amendments. His colleague, Rep. Kendell Kroeker adds that, no matter the constitutionality, “I think that its necessary when the federal government violates our rights in the Constitution we have to act.”
This isn’t the first effort by the Wyoming legislature to circumvent federal law. On the state’s ballot in November, lawmakers added a proposed constitutional amendment that would have exempted the state from Obamacare.