Right-Wing Media Promote Unconstitutional Nullification In Response To Federal Gun Violence Prevention Laws

Right-wing bloggers are promoting a proposed Wyoming law that aims to nullify new federal laws to prevent gun violence, but the Supreme Court has ruled that state nullification is unconstitutional and even conservative legal experts have agreed with this assessment.

Conservative media have reacted to pledges by Democrats to strengthen gun violence prevention laws after the massacre of 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School by invoking Hitler and warning of revolution. Now several conservative media outlets are promoting a proposed Wyoming law that aims to nullify several possible federal gun violence protection measures.

State lawmakers in Wyoming have proposed a bill that aims to nullify any federal laws banning assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, or requiring firearms to be registered. The bill states that federal employees who attempt to enforce such laws can be imprisoned for up to five years. Major conservative blogs and news websites are promoting the law, cheering it as a move against “gun grabbers.”

Fox Nation hyped the story with the headline: “Wyoming Tells Washington Gun Grabbers To Back The Hell Off.”

The Drudge Report also highlighted the Wyoming legislation with the headline: “WY Lawmakers Propose 'Gun Protection' Legislation To Thwart Feds.”

And Breitbart.com stated that “Wyoming threatens arrest for federal gun grabbers.”

But the Supreme Court has rejected attempts by states to nullify federal law.

For example, in the 1958 Cooper v. Aaron case, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the attempt by Arkansas to nullify judicial decisions on desegregation, on the grounds that “Article VI of the Constitution makes the Constitution the 'supreme Law of the Land' ” and the federal courts are the final arbiters of the Constitution. Article VI also states that “the laws of the United States” that are passed pursuant to the Constitution are “the supreme law of the land ... laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” Indeed, the Supreme Court rejected nullification attempts as early as 1809.

Conservatives have agreed that nullification is not permitted by the Constitution. In January 2011, Idaho's Republican attorney general released an opinion finding that the state cannot nullify the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, noting that “no court has ever upheld a State effort to nullify a federal law.” The right-wing Heritage Foundation stated in February 2012 that “nullification is unconstitutional ... there is no clause or implied power in either the national or the various state constitutions that enables states to veto federal laws unilaterally.”

Furthermore, libertarian law professor Randy Barnett -- one of the leading architects of the constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act -- has said “state nullification is kind of a non-starter in our legal system.” Barnett argued that the original Constitution probably did not authorize nullification, and the Supreme Court today would not allow nullification.