There’s a growing movement on the part of states to override federal laws and regulations under the 10th Amendment, which reserves powers to the states not delegated to the federal government. So far, the battle lines have been drawn at Real ID, medical marijuana and firearms, but federally mandated health insurance may not be far behind.
State sovereignty resolutions were introduced in 37 states this year; seven passed. Although the resolutions are not legally binding, Tenth Amendment Center founder Michael Boldin said they “serve notice” that states will no longer automatically enforce federal mandates in areas they believe the central government has no constitutional authority.
Montana’s first-in-the-nation law reasserting state authority with the regulation of firearms manufactured and sold within state boundaries was soon followed by a similar law in Tennessee. Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have already sent letters to gun dealers and federal permit holders in both states telling them to ignore the state law. A court battle is next.
Nearly 20 other states have similar legislation in the works, including directives to their governors to order National Guard troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Next year, Arizona will have a state constitutional amendment on the ballot that allows residents to opt out of any national health care program.
“The federal government doesn’t rule to limit its own power very often. I don’t think going to court and trying to litigate is the best way to put the federal government in a constitutional box,” Boldin said, pointing out that popular resistance to the hated Stamp Act led by Revolutionary War heroes Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry “effectively nullified the law.” The same thing happened with the Real ID Act, which many states refused to enforce. “The feds had to back off three times,” Boldin said.
State sovereignty supporters stand on solid historical ground. James Madison’s “Virginia Plan,” which would have given Congress veto power with state laws and allowed the federal judiciary to hear all disputes, was soundly defeated by the signers of the Constitution. A needed check on an overreaching federal government that grows bigger by the day, the reassertion of state sovereignty should be a welcome development to Americans concerned about losing their liberties — just like the Founders were.