Responding to President Obama’s plan to issue 23 executive orders on gun violence prevention, radical lawmakers in a number of states have re-upped their efforts to exempt their state from federal gun laws through the insidious and unconstitutional practice of nullification. Now, Tea Partiers in Mississippi want to institutionalize the nullification process, with a proposal to create a permanent committee devoted to nullifying all kinds of federal laws. The Dispatch reports:
The committee, composed of 14 state elected officials, would determine what is and isn’t within the federal government’s power when dealing with the state’s constitutional rights. … The bill, which is listed with the state as an “active bill” and will be taken up by the Constitution Committee, provides measures to “prohibit the infringement of the Constitutionally protected rights of the State of Mississippi, or its people, by means of federal statute, mandate, executive order, judicial decision or other action deemed by the State to be unconstitutional.”
“This was a bill that was requested for me to bring up,” Chism said. “It’s to solidify the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.”
Chism said the bill was drafted in response to 23 executive orders issued by President Barack Obama on gun control and weeks before the state is scheduled to begin implementing a national health system commonly known as “Obamacare.”
Having failed in their court challenges to the Affordable Care Act, state lawmakers started introducing nullification bills to purportedly eliminate that law.
The problem with the practice of nullification, once used to defend Jim Crow segregation, is that it rejects both the constitutional tenets that validly enacted federal laws are supreme over state laws, and that it is judges, and not state legislators, who determine whether those laws are valid or not in our system of checks and balances. Right-wing lawmakers revived the discredited tactic as a last-ditch means of fighting federal legislation they could not defeat in court. But a law that authorizes state legislators to review all federal legislation as a matter of course would open the door to a much broader swath of radical and defiant action, which is why James Madison warned that nullification would “speedily put an end to the Union itself” because it would allow the states to simply ignore any law they want.
Fortunately, the Mississippi bill was immediately greeted with hostility, and even Chism himself admitted the bill likely would not make it out of committee. But bills pending in several other states by “tenthers” go so far as to propose that enforcing federal gun law would be penalized as a felony.