10th Amendment

A Response to President Obama’s Gun Control Proposal

President Obama today signed 23 “Gun Violence Reduction Executive Actions.” The list included the following:

  • “Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.”
  • “Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.”
  • “Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.”
  • “Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.”

What these action items have in common is that they are not the proper role of the federal government, which lacks the constitutional authority to legitimately implement them. The president’s use of executive orders to bypass Congress just adds to the trampling of the Constitution.

Law enforcement falls under the purview of the states and their political subdivisions. States should therefore bear the responsibility of training, equipping, and regulating law enforcement officials. As James Madison noted in Federalist 45:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

Some of the action items proposed by Obama are admirable but should be handled by private organizations and/or citizens. Reviewing safety standards for gun locks and safes is a great idea, but should be done by the manufacturers themselves, the consumers, the media, or consumer protection organizations. And society could surely benefit from a “safe and responsible gun ownership campaign,” which is already happening through private organizations like the NRA. Government should not be the answer to every problem that arises. In fact, more often than not, government involvement either makes the problem worse or creates an entirely new set of problems.

Obama’s plan included policy recommendations for congressional action, with the intent of restricting an individual’s ability to procure the defensive tool of his choosing. While President Obama didn’t sign an executive order banning high capacity magazines and so-called “assault rifles,” he did ask Congress to ban them. He also asked Congress to require background checks on all gun sales.

In light of this plan, states can and should interpose themselves between the federal government and their citizens to defend their right to keep and bear arms. Legislators in Wyoming, Missouri, Texas, and South Carolina have already proposed bills to nullify federal gun laws. Wyoming’s bill, co-sponsored by eight Republican representatives and two Republican senators, would nullify any new federal gun laws, require penalties for any federal official attempting to enforce new federal gun laws, and offer legal protection from the attorney general for any citizens of Wyoming prosecuted by the U.S. government.

Utah should step up and offer legislation similar to Wyoming to protect its citizens from the overreach of the federal government and maintain our right to bear arms.