We all remember the day Sandy Hook Elementary was ravaged by a mass shooting, killing 27 students and teachers and injuring one. Heinous terror gripped Newtown, Conn. as families watched friends and loved ones lose their lives to a semi-automatic assault rifle and two pistols.
And Sandy Hook was not the only mass shooting to occur in recent history. In fact, according to an L.A. Times article, they are increasingly common, as 11 of the deadliest shootings in the United States since 1984 have happened in the past three years, in comparison to the 6 between 1990 and 1995.
These tragedies ripped through the nation, prompting the public and politicians to debate how to balance safe gun regulations while still maintaining people’s rights as set out in the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In Ohio, the Senate and House of Representatives are proposing their own gun-related legislation and one bill, House Bill 99, would limit law enforcement in their ability to enforce future gun regulations.
H.B. 99 would make the seizure of a firearm more difficult, prohibit required gun registration, and make enforcing any future federal gun regulations a first-degree felony in Ohio.
These policies are not necessarily pro-gun, according to Scott Landreth, the Ohio Chapter Coordinator for the Tenth Amendment Center who testified for H.B. 99 in front of the Ohio House State and Local Government Committee on Oct. 29. The issue actually being addressed is the constitutionality of any federal gun-control law. For Landreth, the federal government does not have the right to pass any national gun regulations because they are not given the enumerated power in the constitution.
“One of the things that I tried to express [in my testimony] was that if Ohioans want more or less restrictions on firearms it’s up to Ohio to decide,” Landreth said. “It is a state issue. It is not a federal issue because…it is not a delegated or enumerated power that was given to the United States government in the constitution.”
Because federal gun regulation is ‘unconstitutional,’ Landreth argues that states have the right to nullify those laws and choose to not enforce them, similar to California’s policy to drug-related marijuana laws.
“Technically, and the Supreme Court has agreed with me on this, there’s nothing that says that states have to comply with federal laws. States do not have to enforce federal gun laws, so they wouldn’t be breaking any federal laws if they simply did not enforce those federal laws,” Landreth said.
However, proponents for H.B. 99 have strong competition from organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, which believes that “the Second Amendment does not confer an unlimited right upon individuals to own guns or other weapons nor does it prohibit reasonable regulation of gun ownership, such as licensing and registration.” They also has a small public backing, as support for anti-gun legislation remains low, according to a Gallup Poll.
Overall, Landreth doubts that H.B. 99 will pass without significant amendments, as legislators are worried about opposing the federal government.
“A lot of lawmakers in Ohio do not like the thought of challenging the feds…so I would be very surprised if [HB 99] passed with that felony penalty language intact,” Landreth said. “But I do think that it would be very effective and certainly legal and also feasible for the House and Senate to pass a version of H.B. 99…that certainly refuses enforcement and refuses compliance.”