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Today in the Transformation of the Party of Lincoln to the Party of Calhoun


It’s not all that easy to get to Andrew Jackson’s right these days, but Missouri legislators may pull it off:

Unless a handful of wavering Democrats change their minds, the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature is expected to enact a statute next month nullifying all federal gun laws in the state and making it a crime for federal agents to enforce them here. A Missourian arrested under federal firearm statutes would even be able to sue the arresting officer.

The law amounts to the most far-reaching states’ rights endeavor in the country, the far edge of a growing movement known as “nullification” in which a state defies federal power.

The bill was actually passed once, but it was vetoed by Jay Nixon based on the so-called “Supremacy Clause,” which is presumably part of the same mythical Unicorn Constitution as “Section 2 of the 15th Amendment” and “Article I, Section 8.”

It must be said that the linked article is somewhat strange, following up the discussion above with an attempted both-sides-do-it comparison with the alleged “nullification” of federal marijuana laws. The problem is that words mean things and state legalization of medical marijuana is not actually “nullification.” Fortunately, the article does go on to provide a rebuttal to its own frame, albeit off the front page of the print edition:

What distinguishes the Missouri gun measure from the marijuana initiatives is its attempt to actually block federal enforcement by setting criminal penalties for federal agents, and prohibiting state officials from cooperating with federal efforts. That crosses the constitutional line, said Robert A. Levy, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute’s board of directors — a state cannot frustrate the federal government’s attempts to enforce its laws.

Yes, I would have to say the fact that unlike the lack of nullification in state marijuana decriminalization does distinguish them from laws that are in fact nullifications of state power. States aren’t obliged to make every federal crime a crime under state law; it’s only “nullification” when a state attempts to prevent the federal government from enforcing federal law. What I still don’t understand is what the comparison was doing in the article in the first place.

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