Gun proposal highlights nullification debate

Posted March 8, 2013

— A proposed amendment filed this week to restrict what limits can be placed on gun ownership in North Carolina is the latest shot in the growing debate over nullification of federal laws.

Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, filed House Bill 246, dubbed "The Gun Rights Amendment," on Wednesday.

The bill, which would allow a person with a valid concealed handgun permit to carry it pretty much anywhere in North Carolina, also includes language stating that the state "shall never engage in a general confiscation of the weapons of its citizens and shall never cooperate in the effort of any other entity to do so."

"Whether it's federal government, United Nations, whoever it might be, you have no right to take guns from law abiding citizens," Pittman said Friday. "I think this state should make clear that we won't tolerate that and won't cooperate with it."

He acknowledged that no one is trying to confiscate weapons, but he said it might be only a matter of time.

“It’s been seen in history – in other nations – that confiscation was the end goal, and some of the same control tactics were used leading up to that," he said. "We’re trying to kind of head that off before it can get that far.”

House leaders haven't yet set a date for the amendment to be heard in committee. If it's approved by lawmakers, the amendment would go before voters in 2014.

Pittman said many of his constituents believe in nullification – that a state can simply refuse to comply with federal law.

Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus Lawmaker wants to fend off federal efforts to restrict guns

"The states created the federal government, not the other way around, and the federal government needs to learn once again to be servants of the states and not our masters," he said.

Over the years, however, the courts have found one big problem with nullification.

"It's patently unconstitutional," said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland.

Glazier, a constitutional law professor, said the supremacy clause in the Constitution makes it clear states can't just refuse to follow federal laws if they don't agree with them.

"That is not a mature option given to responsible legislators. It has never been that way," he said. "They tried that in the Civil War, and we've come a long way since then."

Nullification used to be a fringe idea, but it's gotten more popular during the gun control debate. Even some North Carolina sheriffs have publicly said they will defy federal gun laws with which they disagree.

"I think this nullification view is driven by what’s happening in Washington and by the polarization between the parties, which is destroying some confidence in the ability of government to govern," Glazier said. "That’s something we need to work on."

Nullification also has come up in debates over marijuana legalization and the Affordable Care Act.


Glazier said there are better ways to deal with laws one finds disagreeable. "The answer is not nullification. It's litigation or political elections and the democratic process."


This blog post is closed for comments.

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  • 68_dodge_polara Mar 12, 2013

    Why is this under blogs? View points not shared by WRAL monitors would need to be included for this to be a real blog.

  • tbajr Mar 12, 2013

    Anyone who believes an entity called the federal gov't (including the supreme ct) can tell a man/woman what to do still believes in Alice in Wonderland, Peter Rabbit, etc. God created man, man created state gov., state gov. created federal gov.. Who is your god today, God or the federal gov.?

  • junkmail5 Mar 11, 2013

    Does the Supreme Court's own decisions make it right? No, if the supreme Court isn't following the Constitution it can be and as this example illustrates is wrong.

    Except they ARE following the constitution.

    The FEDERAL courts, of which the supreme court is the last word, are the ones who decide if a federal law is constitutional or not.


    It is a right _explicitly_ granted, BY THE CONSTITUTION, to the federal courts.

    Thus it's NOT a right left to the individual states.

    Which is why every single time in over 200 years a state has tried to go the nullification route they have failed.

    Because nullification is not legal under the US Constitution.

    The Supreme Court, not the states, is the ultimate arbiter of a federal law being unconstitutional.

    States don't have the right to ignore it, or nullify it.

    Your understanding of how things work is not only wrong, it's contrary to 200+ years of history and law.

  • 68_dodge_polara Mar 11, 2013

    Does the Supreme Court's own decisions make it right? No, if the supreme Court isn't following the Constitution it can be and as this example illustrates is wrong.

  • junkmail5 Mar 11, 2013

    "shall not be infringed." Prevents regulation on any kind as long as the second amendment is part of the Constitution.- 68_dodge_polara

    It really, really does not.

    For one, you seem to have missed the "well regulated" part.

    But aside from that you have the 1934 National Firearms act.

    Upheld by the supreme court as constitutional.

    You also have the 1968 Gun Control act. ALSO constitutional.

    Even in the recent largely pro-gun USSC decisions like Heller the court has been VERY clear that SOME restrictions on firearms ARE constitutional.

    Just like SOME restrictions on free speech are too (and have been since the beginning).

    Try yelling FIRE in a crowded theater if you think you have unlimited free speech from the first amendment for example.

    Your overly literal and narrow reading is not correct in either case.

  • junkmail5 Mar 11, 2013

    Nullification is constitutional

    Yes, it is. It's that simple- 68_dodge_polara

    Except, it isn't.

    I listed half a dozen supreme court cases for you, every single one has been CRYSTAL clear that you are wrong.

    ONLY the federal courts get to decide if something is constitutional.

    States do not.

    They never have.

    That has been the settled law of the land for over 2 centuries.

    Nullification is NOT legal. It is NOT constitutional.

    No matter how much you want to make up your own version of what the constitution says, the point is pretty clear.

    And even 2 minutes of basic thought can show you WHY you are wrong.

    There can't be 50 different arbitrators of if a federal law is constitutional or not. The result would be chaos.

    There must be a SINGLE decider of that.

    And there is. Right in Article III.

    It's the US federal court system. The supreme court at its head.

    THEY decide if a law is constitutional or not. The states do not have that power.

    End of story.

  • 68_dodge_polara Mar 11, 2013

    Nullification is constitutional

    Yes, it is. It's that simple.

    The powers of the federal government are spelled out in the Constitution and as the Constitution states any powers not mentioned are forbidden from the Federal government to pass laws upon. Nullification is a great way to keep the federal government in check and should be used more often than it is.

  • Krimson Mar 11, 2013

    68 Dodge Polara: "Nullification is constitutional and important tool to fight for human rights."

    Interestingly enough, and quite contrary to your statement, "nullification" was rejected by the US Courts, mostly in reaction to State Laws that sought to protected School Segregation, leading to Cooper v. Aaron...

  • 68_dodge_polara Mar 11, 2013


    The second amendment:

    "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

    "shall not be infringed." Prevents regulation on any kind as long as the
    second amendment is part of the Constitution. The Constitution can be changed but on this subject it has not.

  • goldenosprey Mar 11, 2013

    Nullification is constitutional " 68 dodge

    No, it's not. It's that simple.

    "it's up to the people of each state to decide as the power for the federal government was not given by the Constitution to regulate any of it and explicitly mentioned firearms."

    The 2nd amendment to the Constitution explicitly mentions right to keep and bear arms. In the 1780s the founders intended the citizenry to be able to keep and if needed, bear muskets. It is well established Supreme Court law that rights to keep and bear shotguns and hunting rifles are subject to some regulation by states but there is a certain level of scrutiny for these laws. Nowhere in the Constitution or the history of SCOTUS decisions does it say you can walk around with any sort of concealed or semiautomatic weapon you want.