Alabama bill would ban enforcement of federal gun laws

Published 10:06 pm Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Alabama Senate on Thursday backed legislation to make it a crime for local police officers to enforce any new federal gun restrictions, part of a wave of GOP nullification proposals to try to resist any new gun control measures.

Senators voted 21-5 for the bill by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa. It now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives.

Republicans in several states are pushing such measures, although some lawmakers questioned whether it could survive a legal challenge. Opponents of the bill argued that the U.S. Constitution already protects gun rights and that Republican lawmakers are going to get the state embroiled in a costly lawsuit that they will ultimately lose.

The bill would make it a misdemeanor for an officer to enforce a new federal law or executive order effective after President Joe Biden’s inauguration that “regulates the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories.”

“This bill would expand freedom and liberty for Alabama citizens by ensuring that certain federal restrictions would not be supported by the government or the government agencies of Alabama,” Allen said, reading a letter from a constituent.

Democrats argued Republican lawmakers are setting the state up for a lawsuit.

“We are going to get sued. We are going to lose. And it’s going to cost us a lot of money as a state because we want to make a statement,” said Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham.

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton said the bill dubbed the “Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act” is not necessary because the Second Amendment already protects gun rights.

“These are unnecessary bills that we bring just to showcase, because we have a President that came out with an executive order to try to save lives,” he said.

Biden this month announced a half-dozen executive actions, including a move to crack down on “ghost guns,” homemade firearms that lack serial numbers used to trace them and are often purchased without a background check.

Biden has also called for a ban on assault weapons but any new gun legislation will likely face an uphill climb.

Because the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution dictates that federal law trumps conflicting state law, many previous GOP state efforts to thwart gun laws have been found unconstitutional. The Alabama bill, like some in other states, focuses on enforcement and argues, “under existing constitutional law, the federal government may not require a state or its officers to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.”