Nullification Is Not the Answer to Gun Control

Gun rights advocates need to drop their misguided embrace of nullification.

The 21st century is the golden age of gun rights. All 50 states allow the carrying of concealed weapons. The once-toothless Second Amendment finally has real potency. Even after the Newtown massacre, Congress rejected new restrictions on firearms. Monday's Washington Navy Yard shooting is not likely to change that.

For those who value this freedom and grasp the futility of most gun control measures, the future is bright. The democratic process has worked to advance good ideas and weed out bad ones. Judges have shown their openness to new evidence and cogent argument in interpreting the Constitution.

You might expect gun-rights activists to feel a new appreciation for Congress and the federal courts. But no. The attitude of many is: We don't care about Congress and the federal courts, because they have no authority over us.

In April, Kansas passed a law barring federal restrictions on guns made and kept in the state. This month, the governor of Missouri vetoed a law that would have invalidated federal gun laws and made it a crime to enforce them.

The idea of "nullification" is not new. It was endorsed by Thomas Jefferson and John C. Calhoun a couple of centuries ago. But it has unsavory connotations, having been a favorite of segregationists during the civil rights era.

The argument in favor of these measures is that the Tenth Amendment reserves to the states or the people "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution." According to the Tenth Amendment Center, which promotes nullification, "The States, as parties to the compact that created the Constitution and the federal government, have the power to judge for themselves whether a law is constitutional or not."

This claim may appear to conflict with the clause of the Constitution that says federal statutes "shall be the supreme law of the land" -- "anything in the Constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding." Nullifiers say that provision applies only to laws that are constitutional. And the only constitutional laws, in their view, are those a state accepts.

It's a line of thought that earns points for audacity. But it blithely disregards the opinions of the framers who saw federal supremacy as the foundation of the Constitution -- which was intended to curb the power of the states under the Articles of Confederation.

It contradicts two centuries of jurisprudence based on the final authority of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution. As Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in an 1803 opinion, "It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department" -- the courts -- "to say what the law is." It ignores a minor matter known as the Civil War, which drastically altered the balance of power between the federal government and the states.

What has been established by history is that the states have the right to contest the exercise of power by those in Washington -- but only within legitimate channels.

They can scream bloody murder against unwanted federal laws. They can refuse to let state and local police enforce them. They can decline federal funding that has strings attached. If the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution in an unwanted way, two-thirds of the states can call a convention to approve amendments, which can be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

What they can't do is pretend to be exempt from the national government. This point is not in dispute even among experts who see Washington as far too powerful. Cato Institute Chairman Robert Levy, who led the lawsuit that yielded the Supreme Court's 2008 decision establishing an individual right to own guns, writes that "states cannot impede federal enforcement of a federal law merely because the state deems it unconstitutional."

Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett, who argued the unconstitutionality of Obamacare before the Supreme Court, shares that view. "Under the Supremacy Clause, states cannot override valid federal laws," he told me.

He proposes a constitutional "repeal amendment" allowing a majority of states representing a majority of the U.S. population to override federal laws and regulations -- which would be superfluous if states could simply ignore them.

Today, the essential freedoms of gun owners are highly secure, protected by elected leaders as well as the judiciary. So it's hard to see why their purported champions feel impelled to radically upend our system of government. Better to take yes for an answer.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • sarcasmic||

    "The States, as parties to the compact that created the Constitution and the federal government, have the power to judge for themselves whether a law is constitutional or not."

    Before the 17A the states could block legislation because they were represented in the Senate.

  • Exocetmd||

    Spot on. 1913 should be the year that lives in infamy. States (the pricipals) lost the ability to be directly involved in the decisions/ actions of their own agent (the fed), and we the people got direct taxation. Two major blows to the Republic as envisioned by the founders.

  • Hyperion||

    913 should be the year that lives in infamy

    The year the proglotard monster was hatched. Time to slay the beast.

  • Calidissident||

    Eh about the 17th. As I say whenever this comes up, the states are the ones who enthusiastically and voluntarily gave up that power. They practically begged Congress to pass it, and then ratified it by a three-fourths vote. And sarcasmic, that's theoretically true, but only if a majority of states are against that legislation. What if only a few states are (rightfully) against unconstitutional legislation? I feel like that's a far more common scenario

  • sarcasmic||

    I understand that principle and practice don't always jive.

  • Free Society||

    That whole era was a progressive disaster. Income taxes, central banking and populist overrides of federalist check-and-balances. If I had a time machine and a sniper rifle...

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    'Twas also the year of the Fed, I believe.

  • Benjamin||

    Meh. I thought the anti-anti-gun laws were implemented as backlash against the federal push for more gun laws. Don't think it will matter much to anybody.

    However, gun control isn't dead. It is generally favored by the urban population, which is growing as the rural population shrinks. Actually, you could say that about most issues libertarians care about.

  • CE||

    We're becoming Europe. Bleh.

  • sarcasmic||

    Equality is now more important than liberty.

  • Raven Nation||

    But, but...there can't be true liberty without equality.

  • Free Society||

    Equality is liberty. And liberty my good man, requires a piece of your neighbor's wealth to facilitate your freedom.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Today, the essential freedoms of gun owners are highly secure, protected by elected leaders as well as the judiciary.

    Then why are there all these federal laws interfering with those "essential freedoms"? It seems to me that Steve Chapman is ignoring the fact that these States felt the need to take that route for SOME purpose.

  • R C Dean||

    Nothing protected by elected leaders is secure. I mean, really, Steve, this is derptacular stuff this week.

  • John||

    Chapman writes some mind blowingly stupid shit. It is like he was hired to make sure that the Cosmotarian slur always had currency.

  • Calidissident||

    Well he was never actually hired by Reason. They just run his articles for some reason.

  • Lord Humungus||

    that's a lot of reason!

  • Swiss Servator, Spare a Franc?||

    And he had been writing like an actual libertarian as of late....sigh.

  • John||

    What they can't do is pretend to be exempt from the national government.

    Sure they can. Walter Russel Meade talks about how we are ending the end of the fourth American Republican. Four times in American history America has changed the nature of the social contract and the national government. Those times were, according to Meade, the Revolution forming the original Articles of Confederation, the Constitution of 1789, the post civil war Amendments and reconstruction, and the New Deal. The New Deal contract is falling apart. Something new is going to have to arise in its place. There is nothing to say that that something new won't be a return to states based and states rights approach. Indeed, when you look at the seemingly irreconcilable differences between states like Texas and Kansas and California and New York, this may be the only approach available.

    Chapman appeals to authority here saying you can't ignore national government because we haven't in the past and jurisprudence says otherwise. Well, jurisprudence and practice can change. In fact is it going to. The question is change into what.

  • kinnath||

    Well, I've reached the point where secession looks pretty positive.

  • John||

    You don't want outright secession. You want to keep that national market, you want to be able to have a unified defense and foreign policy. We don't want to be in a position where states are having wars on US soil, which is a real danger if the country ever actually did split apart.

    But clearly, the country is too big and times have changed too much for it to be run by degree from Washington. I am not sure what the next American Republic is going to look like. But I am almost certain it is going to involve more regional governance and much less power in Washington. There is a reason why the beltway establishment is getting more and more militant and power hungry. It is because they are starting to realize their days as lords of the earth are numbered.

  • kinnath||

    I've argued in the past (only semi-facetiously) that the states comprising the Louisiana Purchase could form a pretty strong country on their own.

  • kinnath||

    And we'd be happy to cooperate with an independent Texas.

  • John||

    Sure they could. And the states along the West Coast could do so as well. But we really don't want that. Do we want cousins wars in America the way they had in Europe for hundreds of years? I mean the French and the Germans are nothing but the West and East Franks.

  • kinnath||

    I think the time of big wars is pretty much over. It screws up the profits of the multinationals too much. Whereas bombing brown people in third-world countries is big business.

  • John||

    I think the time of big wars is pretty much over. It screws up the profits of the multinationals too much.

    They said exactly the same thing in 1914. And they were just as wrong then as they are now. War is what man does. There will always be big wars, it is just a question of when not if.

  • kinnath||

    I thought I was the professional pessimist around here.

  • Lord Peter Wimsey||

    "I think the time of big wars is pretty much over. It screws up the profits of the multinationals too much. Whereas bombing brown people in third-world countries is big business."

    Hey Noam Chomsky! Use your real name when you post here! And you forgot to mention Israel.

  • kinnath||

    Culturally speaking we are already 5 or 6 countries: east of the Appalachians; the rust belt; the old south; the great plains, the desert south west; and the west coast.

    We could split up and maintain a loose confederation, and life would be better for all of us.

  • John||

    We could split up and maintain a loose confederation, and life would be better for all of us.

    Not after they started implementing trade barriers it wouldn't. The problem with secession is that it would destroy the national market. I can't think of anything that would more effectively lower our wealth than ending the national market and free trade amongst the states. It would be madness.

  • anon||

    Not after they started implementing trade barriers it wouldn't.

    My god, you're all basically rehashing the arguments of the late 1700's.

    The Constitution plus the first 10 amendments really is/are the perfect solution; unfortunately, nobody cares or wants that to be the case.

  • John||

    Yeah anon, maybe we could come up with this document that provided for the common defense and created a limited government that did a few really important things like protect the currency, the borders, and ensured free trade between the states.

    It is so crazy it just might work.

  • anon||

    It is so crazy it just might work.

    It worked once for about what... 120 years?

    We need to amend the constitution to add "Any law passed shall be nullified 50 years after its passage."

    That doesn't mean you can't make the same law again, just that the public has to still want it.

  • anon||

    Also, I'd like to add that the solution to war is free trade. Countries that profit off of/with each other understand it's not beneficial for either party to blow each other up.

    The only reason war still exist is because barriers to trade (and to some extent, nation welfare) exist. When you don't produce anything I want to buy, I don't give a shit if you get blown up. When I can't buy something I want/need because we're going to war with whatever nation, I give lots of shits.

  • John||

    anon,

    The entire history of Europe in the modern era puts lie to that notion. The European nations traded like crazy with each other, every moment they were not trying to kill one another. People make decisions based on things besides wealth and war is about more things than money. Trade is a wonderful and perhaps best good their is. But it doesn't stop wars. It never has and it never will.

  • anon||

    Until the UK and France go to war with each other again, I'm going to disagree.

  • Logical 1||

    I think religion is pretty high up on the list for war - look at Syria right now, or any other middle eastern confict

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    ...is it? Perhaps at one point that was true, but none of the largest conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries have been about religion.

    Certainly WWI and WWII were not.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Communism and nationalism are religions.

  • mtrueman||

    "Communism and nationalism are religions."

    I think you mean dogmas. A religion is a set of beliefs and practices that enable us to communicate with the supernatural world beyond. Neither communism nor nationalism are religions. Check your dictionary. Dogma is the word you are looking for.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Free trade makes me want to go to war with China and India to get our economy back.

  • livelikearefugee||

    "When goods cross borders, armies don't" - Baron von Bismark (or somebody like that)

  • BakedPenguin||

    Joel Garreau thought there were Nine Nations, but he was talking about all of North America.

  • BakedPenguin||

    My 12:56 was a reply to tarran above.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Yeah, it gets all screwy once the threading stops and they just stack.

  • mtrueman||

    "Culturally speaking we are already 5 or 6 countries"

    There are more than that. I am surprised to see here "Americans" being referred to again and again. There are millions who call themselves African Americans, and millions more who call themselves Hispanics.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    That makes Colorado at least three if not four of what you mentioned...and i refer to polity not geography.

  • bassjoe||

    I don't think people ever really think through secession very thoroughly.

    It means the Mountain States won't have access to ports.

    It means Texas oil men and midwestern farmers won't have easy access to New York's financial credit (which, yes, they actually need to do anything).

    It means that all of those agreements we've come to regarding water rights will mean exactly squat because there isn't a federal government to enforce them.

    It means that commerce, in general, will become much more expensive as Texas tries to protect its cattle and oil industries, California and the Midwest their agriculture, Florida it's... uh... I'm not sure Florida has something to protect other than old people homes.

  • ||

    It means the Mountain States won't have access to ports.

    It means Texas oil men and midwestern farmers won't have easy access to New York's financial credit (which, yes, they actually need to do anything).

    Anything the federal government doesn't do can't be done!

    /Derp

  • Zeb||

    we are ending the end of the fourth American Republican

    What?

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    There is also a vague comparison lurking to the mood of the colonies in 1765 after the Stamp Tax, where more ordinary people got involved in politics and the involvement shifted to the national arena more than the local. Mainly, people have become much more political in the last few years.

    I dodubt it portends a new revolution or anything that drastic.

  • CE||

    The 21st century is the golden age of gun rights.

    I would have guessed the latter half of the 19th century. You didn't need any "concealed carry permit", you just carried whatever you wanted wherever you wanted, unless some overzealous sheriff in Dodge made you turn in your guns before going to the Longbranch.

    Seems like it was a golden age of libertarian immigration too -- just get on the boat, go live where you want.

  • R C Dean||

    No point post-NFA can be called a golden age of gun rights, period, full stop.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Isn't "Post-NFA" that future time after it is repealed?

  • Lord Humungus||

    and up to the 30s (if I recall), you could buy Thompson submachine gun with drums. And do it over the mail.

  • R C Dean||

    All 50 states allow the carrying of concealed weapons.

    Pretty sure this is wrong. With the exception of the handful of "Constitutional carry" states, the states prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons without a license, which strikes me as not the same thing as "allowing" it.

    Even if you count "shall-issue" licensing as allowing concealed carry, there are also still a few states without shall-issue CCWs. And I don't see any way to conclude that a state that requires license issued entirely at the discretion of a state official can be said to "allow" concealed carry without seriously abusing the language.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Then you get into the "May issue" states like New York, where it's "May issue, if you're connected, otherwise, piss off".

  • John||

    Any state that doesn't have "shall issue" doesn't have conceal and carry in any meaningful sense. Without shall issue the local cops will just refuse to issue to anyone but a select group of cronies. States that don't have "shall issue" often have terms like "with good reason" which is really just saying "if you are connected enough for the cops to be afraid to tell you no".

  • wwhorton||

    Maryland, perfect example. I have a friend who managed a convenience store during his college years in a high-traffic, high-crime area. He was frequently alone in the store late at night, and oftentimes had to deposit large sums of money. He applied for a CCW arguing that the fact he had to carry a bag full of money late at night in a sketchy neighborhood where robberies were not uncommon represented a reasonable need. He was a dean's list student with not so much as a parking ticket on his record. They turned him down.

    In MD, "may issue" really means that you'll get a CCW if you're a cop, ex-cop, family of a cop, or a politician with some pull.

  • BLEEDINELL||

    "In MD, "may issue" really means that you'll get a CCW if you're a cop, ex-cop, family of a cop, or a politician with some pull.

    Or own the business, and carry large amounts of cash.
    Chances even then are slim to none (speaking from experience).

  • WTF||

    New Jersey is a "may issue" state, which results in de facto CCW prohibition. Unless of course you are connected.

  • Tamfang||

    It's interesting, btw, that (as far as I can tell) no state has moved to May Issue since the Shall Issue flood began in ~1987.

  • sarcasmic||

    The 21st century is the golden age of gun rights.

    Only if freedom means asking permission and taking orders.

  • John||

    I sometimes wonder if Chapman is just doing performance art and all of use are just too earnest to get the joke. How the hell could someone write that with a straight face?

  • WTF||

    And then there's his totally ignorant assertion that all 50 states allow concealed carry, as pointed out by RC Dean.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I also love the "allow"...the 2008 LP convention announcement of the first vote by NH i believe (not sure, i drink a lot) the guy said "The great state of NH where the 2nd amendment IS my permit". That is where we should be. I am already ALLOWED to carry...the gubmint just restricts my freedoms if I choose to.

  • Drake||

    Stunning that came from a NYC resident. I don't really care that Chapman obvious isn't a shooter. But what a total lack of curiosity and research!

  • ||

    Ultimately, nullification is the answer. Nullification via the second amendment is the very purpose of the second amendment.

  • Duke||

    I couldn’t read this whole article because it’s so ridiculous. If Thomas Jefferson thought a state could nullify federal law, who is Steve Chapman to disagree?

    I wholeheartedly agree with states bucking federal mandates. This is one of the few weapons we currently have to push back intrusive big government. This is simply federalism at work.

  • anon||

    Jefferson was the exception, not the norm.

    Tyrants gonna tyrant, yo.

  • Duke||

    It contradicts two centuries of jurisprudence based on the final authority of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution. As Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in an 1803 opinion, "It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department" -- the courts -- "to say what the law is." It ignores a minor matter known as the Civil War, which drastically altered the balance of power between the federal government and the states.

    I disagree with Marbury v. Madison. You know who else disagreed with that case? THOMAS JEFFERSON -- vehemently. That case really pissed him off. Jefferson knew that the judiciary would become despots if they arrogated themselves final say on what the law was or could be because he thought each branch was co-equal. And therein was the checks and balances he knew we need. And guess what, the judiciary has become despots. If Reason had any sense about these things, the judiciary becoming despots is what they’d be writing about. After all, they have the final say.

  • anon||

    Like I said, Jefferson was the exception. Most people involved in any way with government don't see any problem with government having power.

  • Duke||

    Jefferson was certainly not the exception amongst the framers. I’ve been reading the constitutional debate papers by Madison and they were all very worried about a big powerful fedgov.

  • Zeb||

    I sort of see your point, but how can the court rune on anything if it doesn't decide what the law means? If congress disagrees with the court's interpretation, then it can clarify the law so that it will be interpreted in the way they intended. What power does the judicial branch have to balance that of the legislature and executive if it lacks the power to rule on the meaning and constitutionality of laws?

  • Duke||

    The precise issue in Marbury was whether the court could say a law passed by congress was constitutional or not, and thus strike it down. That’s very different from a court applying said law to a set of facts.

  • Tamfang||

    If I could go to the convention of 1787 I'd say: no Federal judiciary; let "federal" matters be brought to any State's courts, and appealed to any other State. That way, rulings on the meaning accrue by consensus among those nearer to the governed, rather than by infallible decree from Federal appointees.

  • Calidissident||

    No he was not, at least at the time the Constitution was ratified. If the Supremacy Clause was understood to mean "the laws passed by the federal government in compliance with this Constitution, plus any other laws they may decide to pass, constitutional or not" the Constitution would never have been ratified.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Eh, not really -- James Madison was the person who initially laid out the theory of nullification. States nullified federal laws all the time in the 18th and 19th centuries (f.e., Wisconsin nullified both of the Fugitive Slave Acts), and nullification remained in play for many years.

    Admittedly it was embraced more in theory than in practice, but that is also true of Jefferson's views on the subject.

  • Paul.||

    Mothers Against Carrying Guns and Stuff said their goal is to make any carrying of a firearm as distasteful as smoking. She didn't say whether that included the po-po.

  • Duke||

    M.A.C.G.S. does have a nice ring to it. Just flows off the tongue.

  • Paul.||

    Found the actual organization. The following is not a joke:

    Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America.

    Or, MDAFGSA

    I thought mine was actually better.

    http://momsdemandaction.org/

  • Duke||

    I like Moms Demand Failsafe Acts for Gun Safety.

    M.D.F.A.G.S.

  • Duke||

    Or perhaps Our Moms Guarantee Failsafe Acts for Gun Safety.

    O.M.G.F.A.G.S.

  • Pelosi's Accommodator||

    Mothers Interested in Limiting Firearms

  • Benjamin||

    Chapman is just taking one for the team. They needed a writer to contradict libertarian thought for the sake of conversation. He doesn't actually believe what he writes. I commend him for his sacrifice.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I think gun rights people are reacting to the...um...fact that the progressives would take away their gun rights if they could.

    Meanwhile, both Congress and the courts have repeatedly failed to protect our most basic rights in recent years, from the right not to be forced to buy health insurance, to the government's freedom to seize private property by way of eminent domain...

    Meanwhile, the media is constantly crusading against gun rights...

    If gun rights people are treating this as a culture war issue, maybe it's because that's what it is, and if gun rights people don't trust Congress or the courts to protect their rights, then I can't say I blame them.

  • John||

    For the entire history of this country people owned guns with no hassel from the government. Then in the 1930s they passed the federal firearms act. Then in the 1970s they went after handguns.

    The liberals, progs, statist, whoever, are the aggressors in the culture. It is a culture war. But it is not one gun owners started. It was one launched against them.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, there's no doubt about who the aggressors are in this culture war battle over gun rights. Although I don't think the progs see themselves that way. These are mostly people who've never had guns in their homes, who live in places where guns have been illegal for a really long time, and to them, it seems like the rednecks are the ones who are trying to invade their culture...

    People open carrying at Starbucks (home of the prototypical latte swilling liberal) in California, no less! ...that really freaked those progs out.

    And that's what culture wars are all about. Personally? my idea of libertarianism is a culture war--I think our goal is to attack the dominant culture and invade it with the idea that people should be free to make choices for themselves. So many of us are accustomed to thinking of culture wars as a bad thing--because "culture war" usually refers to thinks like fights over pornography, gay marriage, intelligent design, or prayer in public schools. I'd love to purge the culture war of issues like that and concentrate on things that really matter--like gun rights.

  • mtrueman||

    "People open carrying at Starbucks (home of the prototypical latte swilling liberal) in California, no less! ...that really freaked those progs out"

    According to my research gun control in California was kicked off by Ronald Reagan back in the 60's when militant Black Panthers would arm themselves and follow around the police as they "patrolled" Black ghettos. Reagan signed the legislation to put a stop to this activity and the NRA supported it.

    Sometimes gun control is part of the culture war. Sometimes it's part of the race war. Depending on just who is arming themselves.

  • ||

    Stunning as it may be for you to hear, some libertarians think Reagan didn't have it completely together in terms of policy. I know, I know, it's so hard to believe since Reagan was just slightly to the right of Murray Rothbard, but it's true.

    I don't think it would be inaccurate to say that nearly all gun control advocates of the "Progressive", "liberal", "left", whatever you want to call it, supported the Mulford act, so the fact that it was signed into law by a Republican (which is a deplorably shitty stand-in for "libertarian" or even for "not Progressive") doesn't really dispute the claim.

    Also, it may be worth pointing out that concealed carry was already illegal in California prior to the Mulford act... like, 40 years prior. California also began requiring the reporting of handgun sales to the state clear back in 1924. California's gun control regime hardly began in 1967.

    Sometimes gun control is part of the culture war. Sometimes it's part of the race war.

    It was certainly a central component of the black codes in the reconstruction south that kept blacks from owning firearms. Whether that's what's animating the California gun control regime today is debatable. But then, you only seem concerned with one gun control act passed in California 46 years ago.

  • mtrueman||

    Thanks for your info on the history of California gun control.

    As I understand the constitutional amendment concerning guns was included at the insistence of southern slave owners who knew perfectly well they'd be sitting ducks from angry and rebellious slaves unless their right to arm themselves was enshrined.

    The Mulford Act is worth a look, even though it was only one act written 40 years ago. It united a conservative politician with the NRA, and as you say, all (presumably non black) liberals, leftist and progressives to favour gun control.

    I think the gun issue and the race issue are deeply intertwined, and always have been.

  • Ken Shultz||

    We get a more libertarian world when more people prefer freedom for qualitative reasons. If people don't want to call that a culture war, then call it something else, but a rose by any other name... Meanwhile, trying to get more people to accept and respect gun rights by means of a culture war--rather than concentrating on Congress and the courts--sounds like it's working. That's usually the way things work...

    It almost never works the other way around. The culture didn't start accepting openly gay people because various state governments started recognizing gay marriage; various state governments started recognizing gay marriage because the culture stated accepting openly gay people. That's the way these things work. Trying to change the culture by working from within Congress or the courts is putting the cart before the horse. It almost never works that way.

    No reason why gun rights shouldn't work just like gay marriage.

  • Ann N||

    i disagree with your simple analysis.

    as far as weapons of persuasion go, 'might makes right' is pretty strong. (social institutions choices) as well as social proofs (strength in numbers). each institution is 1 reference point. it doesnt even matter if the public oppose gay marriage.

    all you have to do is separate out a few organizations, give them air of dignity in mainstream, then have each cave to your agenda. along with massive fabricated controversy and media attention.

    every time a gay person 'comes out' its part of that. they are a miniscule minority but their agenda has been 'mainstreamed' not just thru culture, but thru institutions.

    judges have been activists for progressivism for a long time. they dont respect our culture, but they have been instrumental in changing it.

    assuming central planners wait for propaganda to do its work is very naive. they are actively prodding society towards their goals, BEFORE society has even accepted the dogma.

    not after.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Culture takes a long time to change. It isn't any one act or one splurge of propaganda. The most important thing that happened in the gay rights movement wasn't any politician's propaganda. It was people like David Bowie and Boy George being open about it in public. Hell, some of them were going for shock factor at the time. The political stuff that happened a generation later was just icing on the cake. Again, the lawmakers follow the change in the culture.

    Incidentally, once white girls started shakin' their tail-feathers to the likes of Little Richard and Chuck Berry, the writing was on the wall for segregation. And Jim Crow laws didn't become abhorrent to people because our politicians changed things; our politicians changed things because Jim Crow laws became abhorrent to people.

    That's the way things generally work. Jesus was crucified, and the Christians were generally persecuted throughout the Roman Empire, right up until it became necessary to convert to Christianity if you wanted to be the emperor. But Christianity didn't flourish--causally--because Constantine converted; rather, Constantine converted because so Christianity was flourishing...

  • Ken Shultz||

    So, let's not waste too much effort trying to seize the reigns of power to shove libertarianism down everybody's throats. Let's concentrate on converting the heathen to libertarianism. Once we get enough like-minded people on our side, we won't have to seize anything. They'll come drop the keys to power in our laps--and beg us to take them. Then, libertarians will come crawling out of woodwork in the halls of power. They'll swear they were libertarians in their hearts all along!

  • Logical 1||

    I like the way John thinks - very wisely.
    But anyway, it's too goddamn late to ban guns. That horse has left the barn, or we can't put humpty-dumpty back together again. (Or, choose your own stupid metaphor) Banning guns would be as useless as banning drugs (like tits on a bull)

  • Paul.||

    It's never too late to ban anything.

  • sarcasmic||

    "Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort."
    -Heinlein's Lazarus Long

    Both liberals and conservatives want people to be controlled. They only argue over what aspects of our lives they want to control.

    Libertarians are the latter group mentioned in the quote, and we'll never achieve political power because we don't want it.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    That's overly self-crediting. There are some in both the liberal and conservative camps who are beyond wanting people corralled into doing what they want. Unfortunately they are the minority tendency (especially in the case of liberals).

  • Inconceivable||

    "Nullifiers say that provision applies only to laws that are constitutional. And the only constitutional laws, in their view, are those a state accepts."

    This statement is inaccurate. To be accurate it should read: "And the only constitutional laws, in their view, are those enacted under powers specifically enumerated in the U.S Constitution."

    The fundamental premise is flawed along with all the sophistry that follows.

  • sarcasmic||

    The gun-grabbers do have a point. I mean, if no one had guns then no one could shoot anyone. This is true. However it just isn't possible. Apparently they never learned the story of Pandora's Box. Or is it Pantera's Box?

  • Ken Shultz||

    If it wasn't guns, it would be something else. Their problem isn't just with guns; it's with people being free to make choices for themselves. Choices that progs might not like.

    I mean, Jesus, some of them don'twant children to be able to eat anything at school other than what the progs that run the school lunch program choose to feed them. They don't even want the kids' parents to be able to make those choices!

    Their stance on gun rights is just a symptom of the problem. The cause has to do with ethics, a proclivity to see other people's feelings as an arational nonconcern, and an eagerness to inflict their own feelings on other people. There sure isn't anything Congress or the courts can do about any of that.

  • Paul.||

    Guns are the last challenge to authority. How are you going to fleece the people if they're armed? This has been played out in history repeatedly.

  • Ken Shultz||

    You must have voted for Sarah Palin, you stupid redneck!

    I've actually been through Kentucky and West Virginia, and say whatever else you want about it, but if the government ever really did try to take those people's guns away? Occupying Afghanistan might be easier.

    I mean, if there ever were a conflict between the U.S. government and its won people, West Virginia and Kentucky would probably be a good place to hide--from the government. I don't know who would save me from the people of West Virginia and Kentucky, but that's another problem.

  • mtrueman||

    "Guns are the last challenge to authority."

    Guns in themselves are not a challenge to anything. David Koresh and Randy Weaver died, not because of a lack of firepower, but because their presumably armed neighbours didn't lift a finger to help them in their time of need.

    People buy guns to counter feelings of insecurity and distrust of their neighbours. The exact same motives prevent them from banding together and defending themselves effectively. Fragmentation and lack of solidarity will always work against an isolated individual, whether he's armed or not.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Umm Randy Weaver is alive and (kinda) well.

  • mtrueman||

    Wish him all the best.

  • ||

    People buy guns to counter feelings of insecurity and distrust of their neighbours. The exact same motives prevent them from banding together and defending themselves effectively.

    Do you have any basis for this anecdote? I mean besides the two utterly retarded examples you used, one of which involved an isolated religious community, the other of which involved a man living off-the-grid who was targeted by law enforcement using his neighbor as an informant? I'm not sure how many gun owners you can pigeonhole into either of those two situations.

  • mtrueman||

    "Do you have any basis for this anecdote?"

    What kind of basis are you looking for? In the mean time I suggest you think it through for yourself. If you can't come up with any satisfactory answers, then ask people around you. "Why do you have a gun? Or why not?" You'll probably find a few hobbyists who are fascinated by the intricate mechanisms, but it shouldn't take too long to come across others who speak of the sense of security that ownership of guns gives them.

    My examples were extreme and provocative to be sure, but they underline my point. To counter an armed, aggressive state, more than guns are required. More important is the ability to organize, and fear, insecurity and lack of solidarity mitigates against such organizing.

  • UnCivilServant||

    On that note, England has had such a lovely knife crime epidemic that they banned pointy knives. Mind you gun crime also went up during that time too...

  • Ken Shultz||

    There aren't any gun crimes in England because guns are illegal there.

  • Zeb||

    Did they actually ban knives? I had heard about people proposing that before, but didn't think even they were that absurd.

  • UnCivilServant||

    You can no longer have a point on them.

  • Tejicano||

    What's the point in that? (sorry, kinda)

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    Today, the essential freedoms of gun owners are highly secure, protected by elected leaders as well as the judiciary.

    In the not-so-distant future, I suspect that simple economics will dictate that most articles will be written by software designed to emulate the tone of Chapman or Marcotte. More outrage, more clicks, more revenue.

    Whereas poor Napolitano, with his high-faluting knowledge and non-risible understanding of American political life, will be consigned to the web's Speaker's Corner to be supported by the occasional donation.

  • Ken Shultz||

    My fantasy football leagues at CBS now run a program assessing how each person did in the draft with a pretty detailed analysis and a ton of text. Working across the thousands of leagues, and thousands of players--it's an amazing achievement.

    ...sort of like horoscopes printed in the newspaper used to make people feel like it was just about them? Only the script CBS' algorithm spits out is only about half as accurate as a horoscope.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "It contradicts two centuries of jurisprudence based on the final authority of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution."

    So what?

    The claim by the Suprement Court that it was the ultimate authority on all things Constititional wasn't based on anything in the literal text of the Constitution. It was merely a self serving assertion on the Courts' part.

    And by the way, Chief Justice Marshall should have recused himself from that case as he was directly involved in the activity that the lawsuit was about.

  • Zeb||

    I don't really see how the court could do anything at all, let alone be a coequal branch of government without that power. A court has to interpret law to rule on anything, and determining whether one law contradicts another (such as the constitution) is definitely part of that.

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    The Jeffersonian vision is that the people, namely the jury, would determine constitutionality. The judges are there to facilitate the judgment of the people.

    That strikes postmodern Americans as blinkered silliness, particularly now that everyone thinks the other's opinion is the regurgitation of "special interest" views (odd how it's always the other fellow who's being hoodwinked by powers larger than them, but never me), but it would work extraordinarily well under a legitimately constitutional, nightwatchman state, the sort that might last for about a decade or so in the real world.

  • John C. Randolph||

    But it has unsavory connotations, having been a favorite of segregationists during the civil rights era.

    It was also a favorite of abolitionists in the decades leading up to the civil war. Today, it's the best way we have to resist the war on drugs.

    In other words, fuck you, Steve Chapman. John Marshall was a usurper.

    -jcr

  • d_remington||

    Steve Chapman; pro-slavery.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "The idea of "nullification" is not new"

    As a former Supreme Court found out when it ruled contrary to what Andrew Jackson wanted. He said "they've made their decision, now let them enforce it" and proceded to ignore the Court's ruling.

  • Kawliga||

    All 50 states have concealed carry Steve? Maybe on paper but we still cannot carry in Illinois. As Chapman well knows, Madigan, Emmanuel, Quinn and host of other corrupt dems have blocked all attempts to put a simple permit system in place. Ostensibly the Supremacy Clause is being completely ignored by the politicians in Illinois. Why didn't Chapman examine this in his article? Because, he writes for the now left leaning Chicago Tribune. One deduces the editor would scotch such criticism of the corrupt dem power brokers. The only Trib writer with any guts is John Kass..

  • entropy||

    Remember the Trib is the one that ran a diagram showing the latch for the carry strap on a rifle and calling it the grenade launcher attachment.

  • Loki||

    The idea of "nullification" is not new. It was endorsed by Thomas Jefferson and John C. Calhoun a couple of centuries ago. But it has unsavory connotations, having been a favorite of segregationists during the civil rights era.

    Not sure why the last sentence is there. It adds nothing of value to the piece...

    Oh wait, it's a Chapman column. He just added that so that his proggie readers would know that that's their cue to say "EWWWWW, EVUL SEGREGASHUNISTZ!111!!! RACIZM OMGZ!!!!!11"

    IOW, to provoke exactly the same emotional response as the phrase "states rights" does.

  • Duke||

    Did you just us a hard S.R.?

  • Duke||

    **use

    SQUIRRELZ!

  • Matt N||

    +1

  • ||

    It adds nothing of value to the piece...

    Fortunately it's a Chapman piece, so it had no real value to begin with.

  • entropy||

    Nullification Is Not the Answer to Gun Control

    Nullification is worth doing in it's own right, and gun control is the easiest thing to do it with.

  • Christopher Mahon||

    Supremacy, Commerce and many other clauses that have evolved over time remove the non delegated powers of the states that by nature limit the organic growth (Jeffersonian) of government and in effect create the nationalism that the 'federalists' (Hamiltonians) desired: Centralized commerce, banking and government.

    Robert Natelson (who sees nullification as extra-constitutional, nor agrees with Compact theory) in his book, "The Original Constitution" makes the case in his concept of a Constitution that produces, 'Dual Sovereignty' between the power of the federal and the separate power of the states. Even Madison shortly after the constitution in his and Jefferson's response to Adams' Sedition legislation (Principles of '98, Virginia Resolutions)recanted his federalist leaning and emphasized the states would never leave themselves undefended in giving the 'general government' carte blanche in deciding its own rule.

    Montesquieu's theory when applied broadly through two sovereigns encompassing thousands of governments might seem inconvenient to social engineers but is more likely to isolate contagion and allow for risk and experimentation as Madison suggested in Federalist Papers #10. States are restricted from overruling legitimate federally delegated constitutional power but so is the federal government from bypassing non delegated power remaining with the state that are inconvenient to their Platonic goals.

  • Matt N||

    Chapman, a bunch of false assertions do not a good article make.

    I used to call for Chapman's ouster @ Reason, but now I think he's unintentionally hilarious entertainment. I suspect the brilliant folks at Reason realize this =)

  • Ron||

    The States, as parties to the compact that created the Constitution and the federal government, have the power to judge for themselves whether a law is constitutional or not."
    This can also mean stats can clam the 2nd unconstitutional not a good thing

  • bassjoe||

    Meh... it has been proven that it's really easy to raise money when you're constantly focusing paranoid gun owners on the myth that the government is about to take away their guns, despite literally all evidence to the contrary.

  • Jake_Witmer||

    The opinions expressed in this article indicate that the libertarian movement is not as serious as the abolitionist movement was, nor as serious as the wet movement that overturned prohibition. When "libertarians" decide to develop some serious objections to big brother's wanton violation of the individual rights of innocent people, they should get in touch with me. Until then I'll have to assume they're all as serious as the do-nothings in the Libertarian Party who are all too afraid to sign their names to a powerful anti-government opinion.

    This essay is so full of cowardly, self-compromise that I barely know where to begin in dismantling it. Each paragraph contains so much tail-between-the-legs whimpering that it merits a full page to completely refute it.

  • Jake_Witmer||

    I wish I wasn't literally forced by the pathetic and intellectually-worthless nature of Chapman's words to say this. Let's just start with this:

    "The idea of "nullification" is not new. It was endorsed by Thomas Jefferson and John C. Calhoun a couple of centuries ago. But it has unsavory connotations, having been a favorite of segregationists during the civil rights era."

    Yep, because racists acquitted Byron de la Beckwith, maybe we should just admit that jurors are also duty-bound not to nullify the drug laws. Gee, sorry Joe Citizen, it just wouldn't be right of me to vote "not guilty," I guess I'll have to drop the hammer on you because the judge told me to! Ah well, there's always the ballot box! (Frederick Douglass destroyed that argument in his "Narrative." ...Probably because he was a racist!) And, of course, nevermind the entire content of Tom Woods Jr's book "Nullification."

    So what do we tell the innocent victims enabled by our cowardly failure to Nullify bad laws? "Don't worry, even though I've then failed to act in a moral way, and I've failed to act in a libertarian way, and I've failed to even act as a decent Democrat who's read Henry David Thoreau's 'Resistance to Civil Government,' I'll be sure to vote to legalize marijuana in the next rigged election (and too bad if that amounts to nothing)."

  • Jake_Witmer||

    ...
    After all, by all the same "logic" expressed by Chapman in this essay, that's the "legitimate channel" for dissent! (Whimpering like a whipped dog, begging for our birthrights from our government masters!)

    Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett, who argued the unconstitutionality of Obamacare before the Supreme Court, shares that view. "Under the Supremacy Clause, states cannot override valid federal laws," he told me.

    I have some land in a Florida sinkhole to sell you. I "told you," you then misinterpreted what I said, so whether it's a misinterpretation or not, it must be true and genuine, if I have a good reputation. The man normally produces good arguments, therefore all words from his mouth must be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    BTW: If a law is _unconstitutional_, it's NOT VALID. That would mean, according to no more "legitimate channel" than the Supreme Court itself, that the law is "null and void from its inception."

  • Jake_Witmer||

    Has Chapman lost his mind? Has Barnett lost his mind? Barnett is the guy who posts Lysander Spooner's collected works for free online. This makes me wonder if he's read them, or if Chapman is simply misinterpreting his position and his quote in the extreme. Maybe Chapman is simply taking him waaaaaaaay out of context here, and maybe he's just gone soft in the head.

    After all, there's nothing constitutional about Obamacare, and Barnett clearly THEREFORE thinks Obamacare is _not valid_.

    Chapman continues:
    "-- which would be superfluous if states could simply ignore them."

    Not at all. The laws already only serve to let the government of sociopaths, by sociopaths, for the sociopaths know when they can expect to encounter resistance. It's only the strong democratic limits (local "unsuccessfully-controlled" elections, jury trials, widespread private gun ownership, freedom of speech and assembly) on government power that actually prevent escalating government violence. The democratic checks on government power are the actual resistance.

    State Nullification and Jury Nullification are both means of limiting government power, with Jury Nullification being by far the stronger of the two. However, where state nullification can work to limit oppression, it should.

    Maybe Chapman doesn't have a clue about how oppressive and violative of individual rights the AMA, FDA, DEA, ONDCP, and Obamacare actually are. Maybe that would explain his luke-warm opposition to them.

  • Jake_Witmer||

    Thoreau and Spooner are rolling in their graves.

    DISAPPOINTING ARTICLE!

  • James_R||

    If federal supremacy is the foundation of the Constitution then what is the point of having state governments? State nullification was one of the chief reasons why prohibition was repealed. Without the aid of state and local law enforcement, most threats by the federal government are nothing more than hot air.

  • d_remington||

    State nullification was also the primary reason why the constitution was ratified. If nullification goes, so must the federal government.

  • Rhino||

    The old Is-Ought fallacy. The Supreme Court has been the final decider of constitutionality for over 200 years, therefore, it ought to be the final decider of constitutionality.

    Chapman forgets that this power is not found in the constitution and created for the Supreme Court, by a Supreme Court decision. So the evidence that it is right to have the Supreme Court as sole decider is flimsy at best, seeing as how it all started as a power grab by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.

  • Unable2Reason||

    I thought that Kansas law wasn't about nullification but about Federal gun regulations being promulgated under the Interstate Commerce Clause (the Federal Government has no explicit authority to regulate firearms). It was simply stating that a gun, wholly manufactured and sold within the state, did not fall under Federal gun regulations. Am I wrong here?

  • michael.bruce87@gmail.com||

    This has to be the dumbest thing I've seen Reason post. Reason is normally so good, so I have no clue what happened.

    The Supremacy Clause says,
    "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof. . .shall be the supreme Law of the Land..."

    This is very clear: The Constitution is the supreme law, along with those laws which don't contradict the Constitution. So the supremacy clause does not apply to just any federal law, it must be a legitimate law in that it is constitutional.

  • juliajuli||

    my roomate's mom makes on the internet. She has been out of a job for six months but last month her paycheck was just working on the internet for a few hours. browse this site......

    HTTP://WWW.RUSH60.COM

  • ammayhem||

    So the Dred Scott decision and Plessy v. Ferguson decision are okay because the U.S. Supreme Court said so?

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement