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UConn professor says Firearm Protections Act violates Constitution

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, February 4, 2013

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08

Proposed legislation that would ban law enforcement officers from enforcing gun control laws within the borders of a state are coming up in of conservative states all over the country.

State legislatures in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Tennessee and Alaska have all passed legislation that would incriminate and imprison an officer that attempted to enforce firearm restrictions. The legislation is preemptive; it attempts to override any ban on high capacity magazines or semi-automatic weapons that may come out of Washington in the coming months.

The movement began in Montana in 2009 when Gov. Brian Schweitzer signed the Firearms Freedom Act into law. Shortly after, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) issued a letter to the state declaring the federal government would refuse to recognize the law.

Gun lobby groups in Montana responded with a lawsuit against the federal government. But the case has been held up in a federal appeals court for over a year and will not be heard until March 5.

The lawsuit, however, did not hinder the seven other states that subsequently adopted similar legislation, and this year eight more states have proposed similar bills.

Steve Toth, a Republican serving in the Texas House of Representatives, announced his intent to introduce a Firearm Protection Act in January.

“The overreach of the federal administrations executive orders that do not align with the Constitution, are not very popular here in Texas,” Toth said in a press release.

But UConn political science professor Jeffrey Ladewig said it’s the Firearm Protection Act that violates the Constitution.

“There’s a long history in states battling the government back and forth, but the supremacy clause is clear,” Ladewig said, referring to the clause in Article VI of the Constitution that states the federal Constitution is the “supreme law of the land.”

Proponents of the legislation like Montana’s Firearm Protection Act argue the 10th Amendment, which states that powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution are left to the states and people, gives the laws validity.

But Ladewig said he predicts the court will rule in favor of the federal government. In Supreme Court cases throughout history, Ladewig said, the courts have consistently ruled when a federal law exists, a state law cannot override it.

Gary Marbut, the president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association and a plaintiff in the ATF lawsuit, said he intends to take the case to the Supreme Court and establish a new precedent. However, Marbut did say he does not believe Montana should begin enforcing the legislation until the case is settled.

The odds of the Connecticut General Assembly proposing similar legislation are slim. A recent poll by UConn and the Hartford Courant showed in the wake of recent tragedies like the Sandy Hook shooting, 64 percent of Connecticut residents said they favored enacting stricter gun laws.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told reporters in January he expects the General Assembly will pass gun control legislation in the next few months.

“I don’t think it’s going to be hard to pass recommendations in this legislature,’’ Malloy said. “If you’re asking me do I expect it’s going to be terribly hard to pass new gun laws in Connecticut, the answer is no.’’
Jennifer Necci Dineen, the poll director at UConn, told the Hartford Courant that the conversation about gun control is different in Connecticut than the rest of the country.

“Connecticut, being a blue state and having a lower percentage of gun owners than we see nationally, is probably a bit more predisposed to supporting (gun control) legislation,’’ Dineen said. “And Sandy Hook has hit home. Connecticut residents say Newtown has had an impact on them. That’s true for Americans in other places, but not to the same degree.” 

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