RICHMOND, Va. (Dec. 2, 2015) – A bill prefiled in the Virginia House of Delegates takes an interesting first step toward protecting the right to keep and bear arms from federal infringement by defining it in statute as an individual right unconnected with the militia.
Delegates Mark L. Cole and (R) Charles D. Poindexter (R) prefiled House Bill 49 (HB49) on Nov. 25. The short bill essentially codifies the Supreme Court opinion handed down in District of Columbia v. Heller. The legislation amends the Virginia code, adding a section that states:
“The right to keep and bear arms conferred by Article I, Section 13 of the Constitution of Virginia and the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is an individual right that is unconnected with militia service.”
The legislation goes on to clearly state the intent of the language.
“That it is the expressed intent of the General Assembly that this act codify the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).”
The opinions of Supreme Court justices don’t necessarily coincide with the actual, intended meaning of the Constitution. In fact, more often than not they don’t. But in the case of Heller, the majority did properly articulate the original understanding of the Second Amendment.
“The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms.”
While the Supreme Court can’t legitimately alter the meaning or intent of the Constitution, it can affirm it, as it did in Heller. The decision doesn’t fundamentally change anything. It wouldn’t have changed anything even if the opinion had gone the other way. The meaning of the Second Amendment was fixed at the time of ratification and cannot be altered without further amendment.
But a decision like Heller does have a practical impact, and HB49 seeks to capitalize on that. With the right to keep and bear arms codified as an individual right in state law, it would create a foundation for further state action to protect it from federal infringement. HB49 potentially removes a hurdle that opponents could throw in front of further legislation to preserve the Second Amendment. They can’t say “that’s not what the Second Amendment means,” with it clearly codified in state law. Passage of HB49 would color and support every future Virginia bill addressing the right to keep and bear arms.
Legal frameworks like this become particularly important during the legislative process. Many state representatives and senators have law degrees. Lawyers often chair important committees. Clearing away legal arguments forces representatives to address legislation on its merits and prevents opponents from killing bills based on legal technicalities.
HB49 represents a nice first step toward protecting the right to keep and bear arms from federal infringement in Virginia. If successfully passed, it would set the stage to introduce legislation to stop state cooperation with the enforcement of federal gun laws.
Because the feds rely heavily on state and local law enforcement assistance to enforce federal measures, passing a state law banning such assistance will make federal gun control “nearly impossible to enforce.”
Our strategy takes a step-by-step approach, with each step building on the last, until all federal gun control is nullified in practice within the state.
STEP 1: LINE IN THE SAND ON ANY NEW GUN CONTROL (pdf here)
All states (except Alaska, Idaho, and Tennessee) should pass this legislation.
In the first step, the state bans enforcement of any future federal gun acts, laws, orders, regulations, or rules. (We’ll call these “measures” from here on out) This legislation prohibits a state from taking any action, or providing any resources, to enforce or assist in the enforcement of future federal gun measures. Idaho was the first state to pass step one as law (S.1332), with Gov. Otter signing it in March 2014.
STEP 2-3: Ban enforcement of specific current federal gun control, expanding to all in the future.
Idaho and Alaska should pursue these steps
The second step bans state enforcement of specific current federal gun measures.This builds on step one by including one or more significant federal measures currently on the books. For instance, a bill introduced in Louisiana in 2014 would have authorized possession of short-barrelled firearms without federal registration.
The third step prohibits state enforcement of all federal gun measures, current and future.
All local communities can begin this process immediately. With some sheriffs already announcing that they will not participate in the enforcement of new federal gun control, the time is now to get that on the books – so that a future sheriff (or police chief) can change course.
TAKE ACTION: Contact your state rep AND senator – and urge them to introduce this legislation for your state.
Find your legislators’ contact info at this link.
BILL TRACKING – at this link.