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1/31/2013 10:12:00 AM
Public Safety Committee draws line with federal government over gun laws
Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, explains her legislation Wednesday to make it a felony for federal officials to try to enforce their gun laws in Arizona. The Senate Committee on Public Safety approved the measure on a party line vote.  (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, explains her legislation Wednesday to make it a felony for federal officials to try to enforce their gun laws in Arizona. The Senate Committee on Public Safety approved the measure on a party line vote. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- A Senate panel set the stage Wednesday for a confrontation between state and federal law enforcement over gun laws.

On a party line vote, the Public Safety Committee approved a measure to make it a felony for any federal official, agent or employee to enforce "any act, order, law, statute, rule or regulation' dealing with personal firearms, accessories like magazines and ammunition that is owned commercially or privately in Arizona and remains within its borders. The same prohibition would apply to guns and accessories manufactured in Arizona.

Violators would be guilty of a Class 6 felony.

Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, said SB 1112 is, in a way, a line in the sand following the Obama administration asking for new laws and regulations in the wake of the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Among those proposals are a ban on assault-style weapons and a limit on the number of rounds that can be in a magazine.

"I am very impassioned about Arizona states' rights and the overreach that I feel that the federal

government has put into many aspects of running our state,' she told colleagues. "And firearms -- personal firearms in particular -- are just one of those ways that they're reaching down into the state, especially after tragedies have happened.'

But with that felony penalty -- and a possible one-year term in state prison -- Sen. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, said this is more than just a statement. More to the point, he questioned exactly how such a law would be enforced.

"I believe that the process that would follow as in any case when laws are being broken,' Ward responded.

"Say a federal official comes to confiscate a gun that they feel that the magazine is too big or it looks the wrong way ... that person can call our Arizona law enforcement in their area,' she explained. "And that law enforcement will have the right to enforce this law on the federal official who is attempting to encroach on us.'

And Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, brushed aside concerns that there might be some conflict between state and federal authorities.

"There are a thousand years of tradition that the county sheriff is the sovereign law enforcement official in any realm,' he said. And Shooter said that even trumps the authority of an FBI agent.

"The county sheriff can toss him right out if he wants to,' he said.

Shooter conceded, though, that actually getting the case into court, much less a conviction, might be a different matter.

"I didn't say we weren't going to have a little scrap over it, maybe,' he said. "We'll take it to court and see what happens.

A more practical question, however, may be what happens at the time of the complaint. Ward, however, said she sees no reason why a sheriff's deputy cannot -- and will not -- arrest and handcuff a federal agent trying to enforce a federal law.

"If that's what's made into statute, then I would expect them to enforce whatever laws are there,' she told Capitol Media Services after the hearing. And Ward said she does not foresee an FBI or other federal agent putting up a fight.

"I would hope he, as a law enforcement official, would behave as he would expect other people that he were arresting for violations of the law,' she said.

Another section of the legislation, clearly aimed at what is happening in Washington, declares that any federal law, rule, regulation or order effective this year or beyond "is unenforceable within the borders of this state' if it bans or restrict the ownership of semiautomatic firearms or any magazine, or requires that any gun or accessory "be registered in any manner.'

"The federal government has taken liberties that they are not at liberty to take, especially encroaching on our Second Amendment rights,' Ward said. "So I believe Arizona needs to stand up to that effect.'

And Shooter reacted angrily to Ableser's comment that Arizona is trying to skirt the supremacy of federal laws.

"The states are sovereign,' he said. "That's why we call it the United States.'

Ward's legislation also has a separate section which makes it illegal for any state "public servant' to enforce the same kind of federal gun laws. But there is no penalty for those who choose to ignore the statute.

That list of public servants, for the moment, includes judges and jurors. But Ward said she will strip them from the measure when it goes to the full Senate, saying no one in either group is actually involved in enforcing gun laws.

But Ward intends to leave in language including state legislators in that ban, saying that, even without a penalty, that needs to be included.

"I would hope that we would vote to not uphold anything that didn't uphold the Second Amendment, as a body, because we swore an oath on Jan. 14 (the first day of the session) to uphold our Constitution, both the United States and the Arizona constitutions,' she said.

Rep. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, has introduced an identical measure in the House which has not yet been set for a hearing.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013
Article comment by: itsy bitsy Spider

Our legislators are preparing to take this issue to the Supreme Court, Ms. Hartman. This posturing is the first step, I think.

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: W J

Some say this issue was settled with the Civil War, but that only means that "might makes right." Newspaper articles from that time are available to students of history and other writings clearly indicate that many people believed that states were sovereign, free and independent. How else could there be any limit at all on Federal power? After all, the States created the Federal government, not the other way around. Some papers in the North at that time even called for the South to be left alone, but president Lincoln then had the army shut them down. They don't teach that in school.

But let's consider federal laws and the supremacy clause. Left up to the federal court to determine the constitutionality of laws you are leaving the cat watching the canary there is absolutly NO check on federal power. They cannot be the last word and still maintain that we have self government. They are not elected by the people, they are appointed by the executive FOR LIFE!!!

The second amendment of the constitution is simply one sentence composed of a dependent clause and an independent clause. The independent clause consists of the subject and the predicate. The subject is "right" and the predicate is a verb "infringed" along with modifiers "shall not be". It reads in part ". . . the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". Any legislation that violates this sentence is un-constitutional and therefore is in effect "no law". Federal court can twist and weasel all they want, but they cannot violate the second amendment and stay within the constitution.

The English right to be armed goes back to 1689 and was considered a "natural right", that is, by birth or from God, however you want to look at it. There are other rights as well and we do not receive them from the government. Our government was instituted to protect our "rights" as stated in the Declaration of Independence not to alter or remove the rights as it sees fit. State legislators are not wasting time standing up to the Federal government. They are doing their job representing us as they should.

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: verde voter

This is OUTRAGOUS. ms ward should be recalled for ethics violations. Any politician, committee, pay servant, appointed servant, assigned servant that pronounces that they will not enforce laws rules regulations must be removed immediately from their position. This is the ultimate betrayal of ethics and trust. Pay Attention Voters.

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: Oboy! Oboy!!

The 90 dwarves are not so much "...drawing a line in the sand" as they are, once again, donning tinfoil hats and Bozo costumes for yet another comical (for those not dead by gunshot) appearance on the national nutjob-state stage.

Does anyone know if these folks wear their formal straight jackets to Congressional sessions, or, just their daily wear ones?

It is truly amazing to observe the behavior of the right wing when a non-white is in 1600.

They act as if there is no such thing as "History."

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: verde voter

Oh good gosh? I do not get Why Some People keep twisting this topic. This is about keeping assault weapons out of the hands of criminals and mental patients. Why on earth should the country of yavapai SPEND the taxpayers money on a nonsense lawsuit? I called this INSANE. STOP THE INSANITY AND GROW UP.

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: Mr Maverick

When it come to guns ignore the federal government. When it comes to Medical Marijuana the feds are our friends. This is pure insanity and/or BS. There is nothing consistent in Prescott except the crazies run the county and city. The police are the criminals, disabled people are sent to jail 60 miles away w/o any medical care or transportation so things are getting upside down here. Prescott needs a house cleaning badly.

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

@ seems the constitution...

True, our legislators spend as much time on symbolic legislation as their counterparts in Washington D.C.

But I still wonder if it's completely true that States " not have the power to nullify federal law." There must be some way a State can avoid enforcing unconstitutional laws.

After all, two-thirds of the States can force Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Just recently a group of States (not 2/3rds) refused to implement provisions in the 2010 health care bill and were held to be within their rights. So rather than outlawing federal agents again, why don't our legislators prepare to take this issue to the Supreme Court if the Senate manages to pass a ban and get it past the House of Representatives?

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Article comment by: David G

Not so much "another opinion". Your interpretation of the Article and Clause are way to broad. While you mention one SC decision attempting to support your case, there are at least three other decisions that are more closely related to this issue that undermine what you're attempting to establish.

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Article comment by: John Munroe

Even a third rate lawyer like Obama knows that Presidential executive orders have virtually no effect on the 2nd amendment, they can, and will be, ignored.

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Article comment by: seems the constitution has another opinion... .

so now we have folks at the capitol deciding to bring cases to court just for to see if they can? great use of our time and $ folks... its already been dealt with back to marburry vs madison. i thought jobs were the number one priority? maybe not. see below...

Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause, establishes the U.S. Constitution, Federal Statutes, and U.S. Treaties as "the supreme law of the land." The text decrees these to be the highest form of law in the U.S. legal system, and mandates that all state judges must follow federal law when a conflict arises between federal law and either the state constitution or state law of any state. (Note that the word "shall" is used, which makes it a necessity, a compulsion.)
The "supremacy clause" is the most important guarantor of national union. It assures that the Constitution and federal laws and treaties take precedence over state law and binds all judges to adhere to that principle in their courts. - United States Senate[1]
The Supremacy Clause only applies if Congress is acting in pursuit of its constitutionally authorized powers. Federal laws are valid and are supreme, so long as those laws were adopted in pursuance of—that is, consistent with—the Constitution. Nullification, is the legal theory that states have the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal laws which they view as being unconstitutional or any federal law that the states view as having exceeded Congresses’ constitutionally authorized powers. The courts have found that under Article III of the Constitution, the final power to declare federal laws unconstitutional has been delegated to the federal courts and that the states therefore do not have the power to nullify federal law.[2]

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