The following is a guest submission from Utah Representative Brian Greene.
It was an honor and a privilege to be asked to address the 3,000 patriots at the Gun Appreciation Day rally at the Utah Capitol this past Saturday. Although the rally lasted much longer than the scheduled hour, the crowd seemed to steadily grow throughout the event, despite the freezing temperature. As I sat and listened to one energetic speaker after the other and felt my extremities gradually succumb to the bitter cold air, my mind kept recalling the words spoken by Charlton Heston, “you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands.”
When it was finally my turn to speak, we were already long past the expected ending time, so I decided to shorten my speech on the fly. Unfortunately, I left out at least one important concept, which I will try to briefly convey now. Probably the most common argument I have encountered against my State Supremacy Firearms Act is the misguided reliance on Article VI, Clause 2 of the Constitution—known as the “Supremacy Clause.”
Those who favor more gun control and who support a large federal government actually believe that if Congress passes a law or if the President makes an executive order, it is automatically the supreme law of the land. They love to point to the part that mandates that states must follow federal law when a conflict arises between federal law and either the state constitution or state law. Whether out of ignorance or convenience, they fail to look at the Supremacy Clause in its proper context—that which establishes the U.S. Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and U.S. Treaties as “the supreme law of the land.”
The Supremacy Clause only applies if a federal act is in pursuit of its constitutionally authorized powers. In other words, federal laws are valid and are supreme, only to the extent that those laws were adopted in pursuance of—that is, consistent with—the Constitution. To read the Supremacy Clause as big government proponents would have you—that all federal laws are supreme—would render the remainder of the Constitution meaningless. Why would there be a need for anything other than a Supremacy Clause? Why would the Constitution’s framers have deliberated throughout the summer of 1787 over the other 4,500 words in the Constitution if their intent was to make the federal government supreme in all areas it decided to act?
Those who attended Saturday’s rally know that we have a Constitution that delegates specific enumerated powers to the federal government—with the expectation that the federal government is not to go beyond those powers. In addition, we have 50 state constitutions that govern in those areas not delegated to the federal government. Together, the Constitution of the United States and the Constitutions of each of the 50 states contemplate that each state government will represent and remain accountable to its own citizens.
Because the federal government is one of enumerated and limited powers, it must show that a constitutional grant of power authorizes each of its actions. But the opposite applies to the states—absent a Constitutional restriction on the states, state governments do not need constitutional authorization to act, specifically because it was the intent of the Framers that the powers which “in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people” were to be the jurisdiction of governments more local and more accountable to the people. Therefore, the general power of governing the health, safety and welfare of the people, generally referred to as the “police power,” was reserved to the states and not delegated to the Federal Government.
The right of the people of Utah to keep and bear arms is not only a matter of public health and safety, subject to the exclusive police power of the State; but, interference with this right by the federal government is expressly prohibited by the Second Amendment to the Constitution which reads as follows: “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.”
Additionally, Article 1 Section 6 of the Utah State Constitution declares that “The individual right of the people to keep and bear arms for security and defense of self, family, others, property, or the state, as well as for other lawful purposes shall not be infringed . . ,“ and reserves to the state legislature the exclusive authority of defining the lawful use of arms. Any argument that the current gun control agenda coming out of Washington is in pursuit of its constitutionally authorized powers is simply unsupportable in the face of the of the Second Amendment’s prohibition against infringement, the Tenth Amendment’s reservation to the states and their people all powers not granted to the federal government elsewhere in the Constitution, and the protection of the right to keep and bear arms found in Utah’s Constitution.
To conclude that the anticipated actions of the federal government will be entitled to supremacy status via the Supremacy Clause would require a blatant and intentional disregard of the abundant evidence to the contrary. Moreover, those of us who have the privilege of serving our fellow citizens are duty bound to preserve, protect and defend the fundamental rights of those who elected us. The bill I have proposed will do just that.
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