Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, introduced a bill that would bar the enforcement of federal gun laws on guns in New Mexico. It would also direct the office of the attorney general to defend any citizen who was accused of breaking laws on guns.
The Albuquerque Journal’s Dan Boyd reported on the bill yesterday.
In the piece, it appears that the bill will have a tough road.
Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, the new chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that she had not seen Espinoza’s bill but that it likely would raise significant legal questions.
“I don’t know how a state says you can’t enforce a federal law,” Chasey said. “I think secession would have to precede that, but I guess we’ll see.”
The bill was assigned to the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.
The bill is based on a Montana law that was passed in 2009. Since then, six other states have enacted the law.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) wrote an open letter to Montana gun owners (pdf) that told them federal law trumps state law.
From the July 16, 2009 letter:
The Act purports to exempt personal firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition manufactured int he State, and which remain in the State, from most Federal firearms laws and regulations. However, because the At conflicts with Federal firearms laws and regulations, Federal law supersedes the Act, and all provisions of the Gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act, and their corresponding regulations, continue to apply.
The Montana law attempts to use a legal theory that the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution allows states to “nullify” federal laws that they do not agree with.
Other laws, such as the one in Ohio, have specifically cited the 10th Amendment in their attempts to make themselves exempt from gun laws.
This is a legal theory called “nullification” — which is familiar to historians who know that slaveholding states attempted to use the legal theory to nullify laws relating to the freeing of slaves.
This eventually led to the secession of southern states and the Civil War.
The thought of nullification has been an out-of-the-mainstream political theory but has increasingly been pushed by activists and even some Republican officeholders in recent years since the health care reform law passed by Congress and singed by President Barack Obama.