|Some States Propose Gun Control Law, Others Say No|
|BY SHUSHANNAH WALSHE||Jan 18, 2013, 5:43 PM|
If you're thinking about the many ways this country is divided, look no further than the issue of guns. Since the president laid out his gun control proposals some states are proposing stricter laws while others say they won't enforce federal laws or the president's executive orders. Some are going a step further, aiming to make it a crime for a federal agent to try and enforce the law in their states.
Alaska, where guns and hunting are very much part of the culture, has joined other states in saying not only would they like to refuse to enforce federal gun control laws, they'd like to charge any federal employee trying to enforce one of those laws with a misdemeanor.
"We need to lessen federal incursion into our lives and protect our hard-fought rights," Republican House Speaker Mike Chenault said in a statement. "Alaskans deserve the right to protect themselves how they see fit, under the law of the land duly passed by the Congress, not presidential fiat."
Chenault added that the president is using the massacre at Newtown "to further his liberal agenda to try and disarm and disenfranchise law-abiding Americans from their enshrined Second Amendment rights."
The Alaska Firearm Freedom Act, proposed by Republican state Rep. Michael Kelly of Fairbanks, aims to exempt "firearms, accessories and ammunition manufactured in Alaska from all federal firearm control laws," as well as making it illegal for federal agents to enforce any federal law.
Sheriff Stacy Nicholson of Gilmer County, Georgia has joined other colleagues around the country saying he won't enforce federal gun control laws telling ABC News "it's just gone wild."
"There is overwhelming concern of the citizens that the federal government is coming to take all our guns away and that's our fear," Nicholson said.
He also posted a letter to his Facebook page writing, "I have NO intention of performing any act which would violate the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution nor will I permit my deputies as they take the same oath as me," adding he won't follow "orders of the federal government to perform any act which would be considered to be unlawful or a VIOLATION OF ANY PART OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OR THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA, nor will we permit it to be done if within our power to prevent it."
Denny Peyman, a sheriff in Jackson County, told ABC News that he too would not enforce any laws he considers unconstitutional.
"I swore an oath to the Constitution and the Kentucky Constitution and what is happening right now anybody in their right mind, anybody that believes in the Constitution can't stand by and accept what is being handed down right now," Peyman said. "What's happening right now is [the federal government] is saying let's trying to bend it a little bit and if the American people let them bend it a bit, then we don't know how far they will bend it."
As for whether he would throw federal agents in jail if they try to enforce laws that are passed, he said, "I guess we'll see when that day comes."
On Friday, Gov. Martin O'Malley became the second governor to propose gun control legislation since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last month. If it passes the Democratic-controlled state legislature, which it likely will, he will join N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo in implementing the toughest gun control laws in the country.
Just two days after President Obama laid out his proposals, signing 23 executive orders and urging Congress to act, O'Malley proposed his own legislation including banning "all assault weapons," reducing magazine capacity from 20 rounds to 10, requiring a license for every handgun purchase with age restrictions, mandatory safety training requirements, and mandatory fingerprinting. The Maryland State Police would continue to do background checks on every handgun purchase, but this would not include hunting rifles and shotguns, as well as adding mandatory registration for people who move to Maryland with their guns.
"If you have to get a license to drive a car on the street or a motorcycle on the street I think most Marylanders -- Democrats, Republicans, and Independents -- agree that you should have to be license in order to operate a firearm," O' Malley said at his announcement Friday.
The bill also delves into mental health care, which already prohibits firearm possession if a person "suffers from a mental disorder" and "has a history of violent behavior" by adding "individuals under guardianship protection due to an inability to care for themselves or manage their own affairs" and "individuals civilly committed," as well as improving mental health services in the state, and launching an early intervention program for serious mental illness. The legislation would also prohibit ammunition possession for people who cannot also own firearms.
The third element of the proposed measures is school safety, with the bill giving $25 million to school security enhancements -- more cameras, automatic-locking doors, shatterproof glass, buzzer entrance systems, as well as opening a Maryland Center for School Safety to work with public school and law enforcement to "ensure a comprehensive approach to school safety," review all school districts' and higher education institution emergency plans, and expanding both crisis response services and crisis intervention teams.
Pine County Sheriff Robin Cole sent an open letter to residents saying he sees current state gun law as "sufficient to protect the public safety." "I do not believe the Federal Government or any individual in the Federal Government has the right to dictate to the states, counties or municipalities any mandate, regulation or administrative rule that violates the United States Constitution or it various amendments," Cole's letter reads. "I would view any such mandate, regulation or administrative rule illegal and refuse to carry it out."
After the president's announcement Wednesday, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant joined House Speaker Phil Gunn at a press conference at the State Capitol in Jackson to denounce the president's gun control measures and call on the legislature to make it illegal to enforce any of the new federal gun control measures.
"We are here to assure Mississippians that we are going to continue to fight for their Second Amendment rights to bear arms," Gunn said. "These are dangerous times, and people have a constitutional right to protect themselves and their property."
Bryant also tweeted out a letter he wrote to Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, saying that the president's Executive Order "infringes our constitutional right to keep and bear arms as never before in American history.
"I am asking that you immediately pass legislation that would make any unconstitutional order by the President illegal to enforce in Mississippi by state or local law enforcement," Bryant wrote in the letter.
On Wednesday in Missouri, State Sen. Brian Munzlinger, who represents Williamstown, filed legislation he says will seek "to keep far-reaching regulations from violating the constitutional rights of all Missourians."
"Today's extreme grab of power was created under executive order and not heard publicly," Munzlinger said in a statement. "We cannot let the total disregard of our constitutional rights continue."
His proposal would make the president's Executive Order or any federal law banning semi-automatic weapons not already on the books "unenforceable" and the bill would "make it a crime for any officer, government agent, or employee from enforcing a law or order declared unenforceable," effectively making it a crime for the feds to enforce the bill in the state.
Another Missouri state legislator, Rep. Casey Guernsey, introduced a similar bill that "specifies that it is unlawful for any officer or employee of the state or any political subdivision, or any licensed federal firearms dealer to enforce, or attempt to enforce, any federal law relating to a personal firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition that is owned or manufactured in this state and remains exclusively within the boundaries of the state," according to Guernsey's legislative aide Ryan Clearwater.
On Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie launched the "NJ SAFE Task Force" to lessen violent crime in his state. The task force, chaired by two former New Jersey Attorney Generals (a Democrat and a Republican), includes experts in the fields of mental illness, addition, gun control, law enforcement, and school safety. New Jersey already has an existing assault weapons ban, but during the press conference Christie wouldn't weigh in on a federal assault weapons ban.
"Violence in our society has never been solely about firearms, and we would miss an opportunity to better prevent heinous crimes if we didn't look at the complete picture," Christie, said at the press conference. "If we are truly going to take an honest and candid assessment of violence and public safety, we have to look more deeply at the underlying causes of many acts of violence. That means removing the stigma and evaluating issues of mental health, addiction, prevention and treatment services alongside the effectiveness of our firearms laws, enforcement mechanisms, and our school safety measures.
The group will provide a report with recommendations to the Republican governor in 60 days.
New Jersey Democratic legislators have called for state gun control measures, about a dozen of them, calling for smaller magazine size for semi-automatic weapons, a ban on Internet and mail order sales of ammunition, the inclusion of a mental-health provision in New Jersey's background check law, among other proposals.
New York became the first state to pass gun control laws since the Newtown tragedy, signing the New York Safe Act into law this week. The law includes a tougher assault weapons ban that broadens the definition of what constitutes an assault weapon, and limits the capacity of magazines to seven bullets, down from 10. The law also requires background checks of ammunition and gun buyers, even in private sales, imposes tougher penalties for illegal gun use, a one-state check on all firearms purchases, and programs to cut gun violence in high-crime neighborhoods.
As he signed the bill into law Tuesday, Cuomo said it was not only "the first bill" but the "best bill."
"I'm proud to be a New Yorker, because New York is doing something, because we are fighting back, because, yes, we've had tragedies, and yes, we've had too many innocent people lose their lives, and yes, it's unfortunate that it took those tragedies to get us to this point. But let's at least learn from what's happened, let's at least be able to say to people, Yes, we went through terrible situations, but we saw, we learned, we responded, and we acted, and we are doing something about it," Cuomo said. "We are not victims."
New York's law also aims to keep guns out of the hands of those will mental illness. The law gives judges the power to require those who pose a threat to themselves or others get outpatient care. The law also requires that when a mental health professional determines a gun owner is likely to do harm, the risk must be reported and the gun removed by law enforcement.
A sheriff in Oregon, Tim Mueller of Linn County, wrote a letter to Vice President Joe Biden on Monday, which he posted on his Facebook page, telling Biden, "We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals no matter how heinous the crimes to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws."
"Any federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the President offending the constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any constitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Linn County Oregon," Mueller wrote in the letter.
Another sheriff in Josephine County, Oregon Sheriff Gil Gilbertson also wrote a letter to Biden saying "any rule, regulation, or executive order repugnant to the constitutional rights of the citizens of this County will be ignored by this Office, nor will this office, or the citizens, allow enforcement of unconstitutional activities by federal officers."
"We refuse to participate, or allow our law-abiding citizens to be criminalized through constitutionally repugnant actions by misguided intentions or politicians," Gilbertson writes in the letter.
State Rep. Jeremy Faison and Sen. Frank Nicely proposed a bill that would make it illegal for any "public funds" of the state to be "allocated to the "implementation, regulation or enforcement of any federal law, executive order, rule or regulation" that is passed and "adversely affects a United States citizen's ability to lawfully possess or carry firearms in this state."
Faison also put out a statement saying while he "appreciates" some of the president's plans like "additional school resource officers, training for schools, churches, and higher education," as well as "being tougher on gun crimes," he disagrees with aspects of the proposal such as the "vague" term "military assault weapons" and private sales needing background checks.
"Ten years of an assault weapons ban did nothing to stop shooting crimes. How will it work now?" Faison asked in a statement.
Another state lawmaker, Joe Carr, announced Wednesday he too would be proposing similar legislation saying in a statement that his bill would "charge any Federal agent with a Class A Misdemeanor for enforcing or attempting to enforce a federal law, statute, rule, regulation or executive order that bans, restricts or requires the registration of any semi automatic firearm, firearm accessory or ammunition," calling the president's proposals the "most blatant assault on the 2nd Amendment by the Obama Administration is a systematic effort to disarm the law biding (sic) citizens of the United States."
On Monday, State Rep. Steve Toth, who represents an area near Houston, announced he would file legislation "assisting the protection of the Second Amendment." The Firearms Protection Act would make "any federal law banning semi-automatic firearms or limiting the size of gun magazines unenforceable within the state's boundaries" and most notably "anyone trying to enforce a federal gun ban could face felony charges under the proposal."
"We can no longer depend on the Federal Government and this Administration to uphold a Constitution that they no longer believe in," Toth said in a release. "The liberties of the People of Texas and the sovereignty of our State are too important to just let the Federal Government take them away."
Another group of state lawmakers in Texas proposed other legislation called the "Second Amendment Protection Act," introduced by GOP Rep. John Otto and co-sponsored by other Republican state representatives Jim Pitts and Drew Darby.
The bill, which calls the president's proposals "despotism," and says his measures as well as any future federal gun control laws are unconstitutional and therefore "invalid" in Texas. Like Toth's bill it would make it illegal for a federal agent or officer to come in and enforce the federal laws in the state.
In Virginia, there is opposing legislature being proposed. Democratic Delegate Joe Morrissey shocked the Virginia House of Delegates when he held up an AK-47 to try and get support for tougher gun laws he proposed. He assured the other delegates it was not loaded as he asked his colleagues to pass an assault weapons ban and high-capacity magazines. Democratic Delegate Patrick Hope and Democratic State Sen. Adam Ebbin introduced legislation that would require universal background checks on firearms customers, closing the gun show loophole, and tightening restrictions on the sale of weapons to those with a mental illness.
On the other side of the issue is Republican delegate Robert Marshall, who proposed legislation to require school boards to designate one person in each school who would be authorized to carry a concealed handgun on the school grounds. Marshall told ABC News that the person would need to work or volunteer at the school for at least three years and if it was a retired policeman they would have had to work in the district for three years. Marshall added even with the three-year requirement, it is still up to the discretion of the school.
Marshall also proposed a bill Friday that would "prevent any agency, political subdivision, or employee of Virginia from assisting the Federal government of the United States in any investigation, prosecution, detention, arrest, search, or seizure, under the authority of any federal statute enacted, or Executive Order … infringing the individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms by imposing new restrictions on private ownership or private transfer of firearms, firearm magazines, ammunition, or components thereof."
State Rep. Kendell Kroeker was joined by several other state legislators in proposing a bill that reads "any federal law which attempts to ban a semi-automatic firearm or to limit the size of a magazine of a firearm or other limitation on firearms in this state shall be unenforceable in Wyoming."
Like other states, the bill would make it a felony for a federal employee to enforce federal legislation on a firearm or ammunition "owned or manufactured commercially or privately in Wyoming" that remains in the state.