Good News! Montana Governor Vetoes Legislature’s Tantrum Against Gun Safety Laws

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D)

Late last week, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) vetoed legislation which would have forbidden state law enforcement from cooperating with federal officials in enforcing a ban on semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines, should such a ban ever become law. According to Bullock, the legislation was nothing more than “unnecessary political theater.”

Contrary to at least one report, the Montana bill was not a “nullification” bill. Nullification is an unconstitutional tactic where a state attempts to simply invalidate a federal law by enacting a law saying it cannot be enforced. The Montana bill, by contrast, merely refuses to permit state officials to enforce a federal law, while still allowing federal officials to do so. Denying state assistance to enforce federal gun laws is not unconstitutional, it’s just a terrible idea.

Several state’s are considering outright nullification of federal gun laws, however. A few of these bills have even passed state legislatures, and some would throw federal law enforcement officers in jail for enforcing federal law. These bills aren’t just terrible, they are also unconstitutional. The Constitution provides that duly enacted federal laws “shall be the supreme law of the land,” and thus valid federal gun laws trump state law.