Fort Worth lawmaker's bill challenges feds on gun laws

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- The battle lines are drawn.

As new gun legislation is considered in Congress, state Rep. Matt Krause has filed a bill that would let Texas law officers enforce only the firearms regulations that are on the books in this state.

Beyond that, he said, federal officials would be more than welcome to come to Texas to enforce any firearms law they see fit.

"We are not going to allow Texas to aid in enforcement of federal gun laws that we feel are overbroad and unconstitutional and aren't the same as Texas gun laws," said Krause, R-Fort Worth.

"If they want to do that, they are going to have to come to Texas and use their resources.

"They can 'come and take it,' but we will not help them in any way."

Krause's measure, House Bill 928, addresses enforcement of federal laws on firearms and no other issue.

Political observers say the measure -- which has drawn support from other lawmakers -- probably couldn't be enforced.

"It's not legal," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "There are a lot of bills that get introduced into the Texas Legislature that are for demonstrative purposes rather than legislative purposes. This is one of those."

He and others say the bill is unlikely to make it through the legislative process.

If it does, they say, the courts will stop it.

"It would without a doubt eventually be ruled unconstitutional under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution," said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

"In the rare event the bill passes and ends up in the federal courts, it will burnish the state's conservative image nationally and enhance its status among the 50 states as perhaps the most visible and active opponent of the Obama administration's progressive policy agenda."

Krause, a constitutional law attorney, said the measure is legal.

He said the measure doesn't violate the U.S. Constitution because state officials don't have to cooperate with federal leaders when no state law has been violated.

And the measure, he said, recognizes federal laws -- and federal officials' ability to enforce those laws.

Essentially, the federal government relies on states to do its enforcement.

But if Congress passes a firearms measure that isn't already a law in Texas, Krause said, his bill would let Texas police and sheriff's deputies not enforce the law.

If, for example, Congress enacts a law banning magazines that can hold 11 bullets but Texas law allows such magazines, then state police and other law enforcers don't have to cite anyone for having such magazines, Krause said.

But if federal officials such as FBI agents see that violation in Texas, they can issue citations, he said.

"This re-emphasizes there's a 10th Amendment in the Constitution," Krause said.

"We want to tell the federal government we are a little leery and afraid they will overstep their boundaries."

Krause said he realized that this bill was needed when his staffers were flooded with calls after the Connecticut elementary school shooting in December.

"We were inundated with calls," he said. "People were asking what Texas can do to protect against unconstitutional gun laws."

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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