In a March 1 letter, “Louisiana gun bill a waste of time,” the author attempts to make the case against The Louisiana Preservation of Individual Gun Rights of Citizens Act, which would declare any “federal law, rule, regulation or executive order” that bans or restricts the ownership of a semiautomatic firearm, magazine or accessory to be unenforceable in Louisiana.
To rail against this attempt to preserve our liberty is to not only misconstrue our history, but also to mischaracterize the clear meaning of the Constitution, as well as to disparage the views of the founding generation on matters of federalism.
The Supremacy Clause, frequently misquoted, does not state that anything the federal government legislates automatically trumps all lower (state) legislation.
This is the typical blather that we hear from those desiring that we all just shut up and take it, however onerous and potentially unconstitutional “it” happens to be.
Article VI states “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof ... shall be the supreme law of the land.” How any intellectually honest analysis can make the leap from this, to “anything goes” is perplexing. Federal legislation must meet the constitutionality challenge; otherwise it is in no way “supreme.” And the states are clearly capable of recognizing federal overstepping, based on history (see Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798), as well as discussions from state ratifying conventions prior to the adoption of the Constitution.
James Madison clearly understood this when he and Thomas Jefferson penned the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, respectively, in 1798 to oppose the unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Acts of the Adams administration.
These acts violated constitutionally guaranteed rights. By the reasoning of the author of the opinion letter under discussion, this should not have occurred, and the Alien and Sedition Acts should have stood as “supreme.”
A young, post-revolutionary Madison got this right, stating the states were in fact duty-bound to resist the federal government if the latter went beyond its constitutional boundaries. Madison used the term “interposition.” Jefferson coined “nullification” to mean the same practice.
Both the terms and the men are rebuked in today’s government-is-always-right atmosphere. Nullification merely disallowed the enforcement of a nonexistent constitutionality.
Jefferson admonished that eternal vigilance is necessary to secure liberty, and that it is the natural progress of things for liberty to yield and for government to grow. Neither human nature, nor natural rights have changed since our founding. The wisdom of Jefferson, Madison and others should be heeded regarding this matter, and we must, therefore, remain ever vigilant. The act in question does just that, and is fully consistent with our heritage of liberty.