TENNESSEE (WJHL) – A local lawmaker proposed legislation that could lead to Tennessee becoming the fifth state to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary state.
Tennessee State Representative Scotty Campbell (R-Mountain City) told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that he proposed this legislation to protect the gun rights of all Tennesseans against any possible action from the federal government.
“I had a number of people reach out to me wanting Tennessee to be a second amendment sanctuary state, some other states across the country have done this, and we’re going to try to get it done here in Tennessee,” Campbell said. “With an overreaching federal government that we’ve been living with for, well, all of our lives, frankly, the possibility of executive orders or federal law that attempts to violate the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America by limiting access to ammunition, or making it more difficult for you to purchase a firearm or to even take it away, that’s not what many of us want to see happen. And this is one step by attempting to water down that federal power, we have states rights, we need to exercise our power of the 10th amendment of our state’s rights and telling the United States government, no.”
This proposed bill would limit the power of the federal government when it comes to gun control in the state of Tennessee, Campbell explained.
“This bill makes it to where the federal government cannot give us an executive order, and then expect our Tennessee Highway Patrol city and county, – city police County deputies – to go out and enforce what the executive order says, especially when it’s unconstitutional. This was specifically about Second Amendment only – in this legislation it’s very narrowly defined. And it would mean that we can’t use state money, we can’t use Tennessee taxpayer money to pay for the taking away of firearms if that was ordered by the federal government for the taking away of ammunition or blocking your ability to purchase it which it’s really hard to buy right now anyway,” Campbell told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais. “If Speaker Pelosi or President Biden decided to try to take firearms from Tennesseans or limit our ability to purchase ammunition, or track our purchasing of ammunition. This draws the line in the sand saying no.”
Lincoln Memorial University Law Professor Stewart Harris explained that this legislation is unneccesary.
“This is politics, it’s not law. This does not change anything in terms of law that would apply to Tennessee’s citizens. It states that if Congress or the president, the national government does something that violates the Second Amendment well then it’s null and void in Tennessee, well, that’s true already is something that the national government does is unconstitutional that it’s not going to be enforced in Tennessee or in any of the other 49 states. It goes a little further, and it declares that it’s null and void, and that’s a little more troublesome because throughout our history individual states have tried to quote unquote nullify national law, and every single time they’ve tried they’ve been smacked down that’s unconstitutional because of something called the ‘supremacy clause,’ and so ultimately this changes nothing. It’s somewhat misleading in terms of that nullification language. And so, it essentially boils down to politics,” he said.
Tennessee House Bill 928 states that “A law, treaty, executive order, rule, or regulation of the United States government that violates the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution is null, void, and unenforceable in this state.”
The “null and void” language, according to Harris, is concerning.
“The null and void language is itself null and void. It has absolutely no effect. And in fact if Tennessee did tried to interfere with the enforcement of a federal statute, it would find itself on the wrong side of the supremacy clause which states that every state’s laws, including its constitution is subordinate to national law and that’s why, Tennessee state legislators and the governor and Tennessee lawyers we all have to take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States first. So it’s just not correct constitutionally. Does it do anything? No it doesn’t do anything legally. I think perhaps what it does is mislead people, some people who have not studied law or government into thinking that a state can do that. And a state cannot nullify national law,” he explained.
Harris told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that it is unfortunate that some are still arguing over states’ rights.
“Article six, paragraph one: ‘this constitution in the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made or which shall be made under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary not withstanding,’ and then it goes on to say that state officials have to take an oath to uphold that. I mean, we’ve been arguing this issue ever since the Constitutional Convention, most notably during the Civil War, but all throughout the civil rights era when individual states would try to violate the equal protection clause, for example, and would claim that they, they were sovereign and they did not have to do that and they would carry the banner of states rights. Well, that was decided back in 1787. And it’s unfortunate that we’re still arguing about it,” Harris explained.
He said the Second Amendment already protects the right to bear arms for any American citizen, including Tennesseans.
“In a legal, constitutional sense, this bill is completely unnecessary and completely ineffective. As a political statement by the people of Tennessee that they are not going to suffer any violations by the national government of their second amendment rights. Well, again, that’s politics and if they want to make that statement, that’s fine. But my concern is simply that by using that nullification language they might be leading some citizens of Tennessee to think that the state can actually nullify national law when in fact just the opposite is true,” Harris explained. “I would simply say that it’s entirely unnecessary, that the Second Amendment already protects people’s gun rights. If the national government were to do anything to violate that second amendment the appropriate thing would be to challenge that in court. And once the court had struck the law down, then gun rights would be protected. That’s what we’ve seen over and over in the last few years, and that is the way to do it, involving the state with one of these Second Amendment sanctuary declarations is, it’s politics, it’s not law.”
This piece of legislation is not just for Campbell’s constituents, but for all Tennesseans, he said.
“I’m a firm believer that the right to keep in bear arms shall not be infringed I would say to people here in Johnson, Carter, Sullivan, and beyond. I want you to be able to keep your firearms to protect yourself and your family – bottom line,” Campbell said. “This is probably the most straightforward legislation I’ve ever seen. We’ll make changes to it possibly, we’re going to try to find a way to strengthen it further.”
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