From staff and wire reports
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A proposal to block state and local police officers and agencies from enforcing any new federal gun restrictions drew criticism at a public hearing Wednesday, with some speakers questioning the bill’s constitutionality and saying it would be confusing for law enforcement.
The legislation is part of a wave of GOP nullification proposals to try to resist any new gun control measures under President Joe Biden. The bill by Republican Rep. Shane Stringer of Semmes would prohibit state law enforcement officers, agencies and resources from being used to enforce new federal law or executive orders approved after Jan 1. that regulate “the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories.”
Randy Hillman, a former prosecutor representing the Alabama Sheriffs’ Association, told the committee that the measure would put law enforcement officers in a position of having to “pick and choose” what to enforce.
“It’s going to confuse law enforcement,” Hillman said.
During drug investigations in particular, he said officers typically encounter violations of both state and federal law.
Harriet Huggins of Moms Demand Action said the state should not send a message to criminals that gun laws will not be enforced.
“It can create confusion and a real public safety risk,” Huggins said.
Hillman said he did not think the measure would be constitutional. The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution dictates that federal law trumps conflicting state law.
However, Semmes noted the Alabama bill, like some in other states, focuses on enforcement.
The bill notes that, “under existing constitutional law, the federal government may not require a state or its officers to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.”
Republican Rep. Mike Ball said the bill in his view the bill is about politics and questioned how much substantial effect it would have. A former law enforcement officer, Ball said he believes it is a rare instance where a state or local officer gets involved with federal law enforcement.
Ball said he didn’t think the impact would be as “dreadful” as the opponents say or as “wonderful” as supporters claimed.
The Alabama Senate has already approved a similar measure.
“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,” sponsor Sen. Gerald Allen said during debate.
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.
Separately, the House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 319 to authorize the Legislative Council to review executive orders issued by the President of the United States and submit them to the Alabama Attorney General for review. When they’re determined by the attorney general to be an unconstitutional restriction of rights, the state and local governments may not enforce them. The bill from Rep. Shane Stringer, R-Mobile, applies specifically to orders related to epidemics, land use, natural resources, agriculture and gun rights.
The bill and vote led to a tense exchange between Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, and Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham. Faulkner criticized Coleman for calling the bill “stupid.”
Coleman didn’t back down.
“It is stupid to me and it will continue to be stupid to me and for lawyers on this committee to vote for this piece legislation that you know is unconstitutional. I’ll reserve those comments…”