On Friday, May 19, 2023, America’s Future filed an Amicus brief with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. v Missouri, Dkt. No. 23-1457, a case concerning state sovereignty under the constitutional principle of dual sovereignty, a notion that provides for the vast scope of states’ powers to ensure we live with a sense of ordered liberty. The brief was filed with seven other nonprofits and Virginia Delegate David LaRock.
At its core, this case is one that tests the strength and endurance of our nation and our commitment to America’s Separation of Powers principles and the notion that each state functions independently under 50 different sets of state laws. This structure benefits We The People as it allows the citizens of a state to determine the laws of the state, unlike other countries where its citizens are beholden to one national law wherever they reside.
In this case, Missouri enacted a state law coined “Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA)” which declares certain federal restrictions on firearms to be unreasonable infringements on the Second Amendment rights of its citizens. SAPA states, in part:
All federal acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders, rules, and regulations which infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment shall not be enforced by this state.
Following Missouri’s enactment of SAPA, the federal government sued Missouri claiming SAPA violated the Supremacy Clauseof the Constitution. This clause stands for the idea that if the federal government lawfully acts within its scope of authority, states may not enact laws that contravene those lawful federal government acts. In this case, Missouri did not enact any law contravening the federal government firearm regulations. Missouri simply withheld its consent and asserts the Second Amendment prevails over the federal firearms regulations. Missouri is simply electing not to enforce these federal regulations which, as explained in our brief, is not a violation of the Supremacy Clause. Certainly, unconstitutional federal laws are not the “Supreme Law of the Land.”
Our Amicus brief offers well-reasoned arguments and insight as to why Missouri’s refusal to enforce federal gun restrictions against its own citizens is a constitutionally permissive exercise of the state’s plenary powers and does not violate the Supremacy Clause. In addition, the brief provides the Court with sufficient examples of precedent, as well as reminders, of what it means to be a constitutional republic and what federalism stands for: at the core America’s version of federalism provides perspective on the American principle of “dual sovereignty” – the concept that Americans are subject to the rules of both the federal government and their state government.
Under the Constitution, however, the distribution of power between the federal government and state governments is such that the powers of the federal government are severely restrictive, whereas state governments enjoy plenary, or nearly limitless authority to govern their citizens as appropriate to ensure we live in freedom under the principle of “ordered liberty.” Indeed, the Constitution instructs the federal government that it is prohibited from, and shall not, usurp those powers reserved to the states. Those state powers are generally referred to as “police powers,” and are understood to be all powers having a tendency to provide for public safety, health, education, and the general welfare of citizens.
As James Madison, known as the Father of our Constitution, explained in Federalist No. 45, “[t]he powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”
We, at America’s Future, hope the Eighth Circuit finds in favor of Missouri and its admirable protection of its citizens from yet another hostile attempt by the government to strip away constitutionally-guaranteed rights of citizens. While this case focuses on the Second Amendment, if the federal government were to prevail here, who is to say which God-given inalienable individual liberty will be next on this administration’s chopping block?