Bills nullifying federal gun bans get approval in Montana, Arizona

State legislatures this week in at least two states advanced measures aimed at halting current or future federal laws affecting the Second Amendment.

In Montana, the state House passed a bill by a 58-42 vote Monday to prohibit enforcement of new federal weapon and magazine bans in the state, sending it to the Senate for consideration. Meanwhile, lawmakers in an Arizona Senate committee gave their stamp of approval to similar but more expansive legislation in a 4-2 vote Tuesday. In each case, votes were largely along party lines with Republicans casting for and Democrats against.

“The intent of the law is to allow Arizona to function under Arizona’s own power and not allow any current or future federal laws that go into effect the Second Amendment to affect people who live in Arizona,” Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, told the state Senate Federalism, Mandates and Fiscal Responsibility Committee of her bill this week.

Ward’s legislation, SB 1330, makes it illegal in Arizona to enforce any federal law that the state deems to be in violation of the Second Amendment to include limits on firearms, ammunition, and accessories. Further, it withholds both financial and material support for federal investigations into firearms law violations such as those pursued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Any state or local official that does provide support would be forced out of their position or office and be “forever after ineligible” to hold a position of public trust in Arizona.

Montana’s bill, HB 203, is more narrow in its scope, aiming to prevent enforcement of any new federal firearms or magazine bans or restrictions. Like Arizona’s bill, however, it does prohibit any state funds or officers from providing assistance in investigations concerning such federal gun laws.

Both bills met opposition from across the aisle as well as law enforcement lobby groups.

“The burden that will be placed on peace officers with this bill is tremendous,” said Jerry Williams of the Montana Police Protective Association.

In 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected these types of so-called nullification laws in which states can choose which federal laws apply to them, then later ruled in turn that local law enforcement had no obligation to enforce federal gun laws.

Nevertheless, this has not stopped at least 27 states such as Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee from attempting to enact such legislation in recent years, citing state’s rights protection under the 10th Amendment.

Montana’s previous attempt at curtailing Washington’s gun laws in the state, the Firearms Freedom Act, met with dismissal by a federal court of appeals in 2013.

Kansas, who has what has been termed the strictest Second Amendment protection law in the nation, saw its law wrapped up in fierce resistance from both the federal government and gun control groups, garnering a lawsuit from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence last summer.

As far as Washington is concerned, within days of the Kansas law taking effect in 2013, Attorney Gen. Eric Holder sent Brownback an official letter stating that the legislation directly conflicts with federal law and is therefore unconstitutional.

The Montana bill is now headed to the state House while the Arizona measure now moves to the Public Safety, Military and Technology Committee, which it will need to pass to make it to the Senate floor.

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