By Michael Maharrey
The Scott County, Arkansas County Quorum Court unanimously passed an ordinance making the county a “Bill of Rights sanctuary.”
All nine members of the Quorum Court sponsored the ordinance and passed it unanimously. The bill declares Scott County a Bill of Rights Sanctuary County. Practically speaking, the legally binding ordinance prohibits any agent, department, employee or official of Scott County, while acting in their official capacity, from knowingly and willingly participating in any way in the enforcement of any unlawful or unconstitutional act regarding the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the people to peaceably assemble, freedom of the press, freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances, or the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
The ordinance lists specific acts defined as unlawful or unconstitutional, primarily relating to firearms.
Any tax, levy, fee, or stamp imposed on firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition not common to all other goods and services on the purchase or ownership of those items by citizens;
Any registration or tracking of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition;
Any registration or tracking of the owners of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition;
Any act forbidding the possession, manner of carry, ownership, or use or transfer of any type of firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition by citizens of the legal age;
Any act ordering the confiscation of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition from citizens;
Any prohibition, regulation, and or use restriction related to ownership or the constitutionally guaranteed lawful use or carry of firearms;
Any use of County funds or funds given to the County by any entity, to participate in a “gun buyback” program or event is hereby illegal;
Any use of County Funds, or funds given to the county by any entity to any other government official or entity that violates or has violated any individual’s rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights
The provisions of the ordinance will be attached to the county’s personnel policy, and all new and renewed county employees must read and sign that they understand the law. Employees found in violation of the ordinance are subject to termination and/or a fine of up to $500.
The Scott County ordinance applies to both state and federal laws that qualify as unconstitutional acts.
Unlike many of Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions passed in Virginia and other states, the Scott County ordinance carries the force of law.
The federal government relies heavily on state cooperation to implement and enforce almost all of its laws, regulations and acts. By simply withdrawing this necessary cooperation, states and localities can nullify many federal actions in effect. As noted by the National Governors’ Association during the partial government shutdown of 2013, “states are partners with the federal government on most federal programs.”
Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” represents an extremely effective method to bring down federal gun control measures because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from state and local governments.
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed. In a televised discussion on the issue, he noted that a single state taking similar steps would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.
“Partnerships don’t work too well when half the team quits,” said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. “By withdrawing all resources and participation in federal regulatory enforcement, states and even local governments can help bring these unconstitutional acts to their much-needed end.”
The county could face legal repercussions from the state if it refuses to enforce state law. Counties are political subdivisions of the state and state governments can exercise almost complete control over counties. In practice, the state could remove county officials from office, fire employees who refuse to enforce state law, and cut county funding. Whether the state would have the political will to take those actions is another question.
Although the state can punish counties that refuse to enforce state law, the federal government has no such legal authority. Scott County can unquestioningly refuse to enforce federal law. Refusal to cooperate with federal enforcement rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine.
Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program. The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on five Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. U.S. serves as the cornerstone.
We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policy making is involved, and no case by case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.
Michael Maharrey is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center, where this article first appeared. He is from the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky and currently resides in northern Florida.