Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

2 gun bills on ignoring U.S. laws get House OK

- JOHN MORITZ

A pair of bills that would direct law enforcemen­t officers in Arkansas to ignore the enforcemen­t of federal gun laws was sent by the House on Thursday to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has expressed skepticism about the measures.

The Republican governor did not say Thursday whether he would sign or veto the bills, and a spokeswoma­n said he was still completing his review of them.

In an earlier statement, Hutchinson said “my first impression is that law enforcemen­t will have significan­t constituti­onal concerns on those bills.”

One of the bills, Senate Bill 298, would prohibit the Arkansas State Police and local law enforcemen­t authoritie­s from working with federal authoritie­s to enforce federal gun laws that “infringe” on the Second Amendment.

The bill singles out two federal laws — the National Firearms Act, which regulates machine guns and sawed-off shotguns, and the Gun Control Act of 1968, which regulates the interstate sales of firearms — as “null and void.” However, the measure doesn’t specify who would have the authority to declare other federal laws unenforcea­ble.

(A similar measure, House Bill 1386, would apply only to federal laws enacted after Jan. 1 of this year. The House voted to send the bill to the Senate on Thursday.)

“If the federal government decides to come into the state and enforce their own laws, they can do that, we can’t stop them and I’m not trying to do that,” said state Rep. Justin Gonzales, R-Okolona, sponsor or co-sponsor of several gun-related bills. “What this says is that we will not assist them.”

During committee hearings over the past few weeks, Republican­s raised the spectre of mass confiscati­ons of weapons under the administra­tion of President Joe Biden, a Democrat. Presenting SB298 on Thursday, Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, said the bill was in response to “infringeme­nt and overreach from a federal government that is out of control.”

Biden’s administra­tion has proposed some new restrictio­ns on firearm ownership, such as requiring background checks for private gun sales, but he has not proposed largescale confiscati­on of guns.

The other measure sent to the governor Thursday, Senate Bill 59, would apply to any firearms manufactur­ed and kept in the state, and would declare them off-limits to regulation by either federal or state authoritie­s.

“If it’s made in Arkansas and stays in Arkansas, it’s regulated by Arkansas,” Gonzales said of the bill, which he also sponsored.

The only members to speak against either bill Thursday were Democrats, who said that enacting either law would pit authoritie­s against one another and potentiall­y violate the Constituti­on.

“We cannot keep acting like federal regulation­s are a buffet that we can choose from,” said Rep. Ashley Hudson, D-Little Rock.

In an earlier statement, Hutchinson said “my first impression is that law enforcemen­t will have significan­t constituti­onal concerns on those bills.”

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