A senate bill that would make it illegal for state government officials to enforce federal gun laws raises questions about the role of the state and federal governments.
Senate Bill 1112 was proposed by Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, as President Barack Obama’s administration has pushed to crack down on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The bill raises questions about whether state officials have to answer to the federal government before they answer to the state government.
Political science sophomore Jake Bobay is on the executive board of College Republicans and is also a member of Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty.
“If the federal government will not protect Second Amendment rights, it is the responsibility of the state to do that,” Bobay said.
Political science professor Richard Herrera said he does not think the bill has much to stand on.
“Since federal law usually trumps state law, I don’t know if a bill saying you don’t have to follow federal law is going to carry much weight,” Herrera said.
SB 1112 is likely not a bill with a legitimate political goal, but is meant to be symbolic, Herrera said.
Proposing a bill for symbolic reasons could garner support for the content of the bill, even if the bill never passes.
“If the goal is symbolic, this will likely do the trick,” Herrera said.
If it passes, it will have a legitimate effect on Arizona. State officials could face up to a year in jail for enforcing federal gun laws, which could include requiring background checks on all weapon trades or acquisition of assault weapons.
The constitutionality of the bill is being called into question by its opposition. Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, proposed her own legislation to ban guns with the capacity to hold more than 10 bullets and to require background checks for all gun exchanges.
“If (SB 1112) were to pass, it would be yet another legal battle for the state of Arizona,” Lopez said.
Lopez said Arizona tax dollars are commonly wasted on legal action taken to defend legislation passed by the state, including legislation that was likely intended to make a statement but was passed.
However, proponents of gun rights argue that the ability to own a weapon is a constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment, and regardless of federal action, it is a right that needs to be defended.
“If the issue is the protection of Second Amendment rights, the solution is probably not to pass state laws that conflict with federal laws,” Herrera said.
Additionally, the Second Amendment is not clear on what weapons citizens have a right to own.
“I support an individual’s right to own a gun to protect themselves, but we don’t need military-level weapons,” Lopez said.
The First Amendment guarantees the right to religion, but does not declare which denominations specifically, which means that no religion can be denied, Bobay said.
“I don’t see how you can guarantee some rights and not others,” Bobay said.
The debate over gun rights has been ignited because of several recent shootings, particularly the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman used a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle to kill 26 people.
On Monday, Obama delivered a speech in Minneapolis about the issue of gun control and said that action would soon be taken at the federal level.
Bobay, who spent the first 20 years of his life near Newtown, said he does not approve of the role the shooting has played in recent politics.
“It’s a shame that politicians are using the shooting to move their own agendas forward,” Bobay said.
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