State Nullification of “Unconstitutional” Federal Laws


Posted on: August 07, 2015

By Tom Gow

‘Nullification,’ the theory that states can invalidate federal laws that they deem unconstitutional, had its heyday in the slavery debate that preceded the Civil War, but it has found new currency since 2010.

The theory has never been validated by a federal court, yet some Republican officeholders have suggested states can nullify laws, including Senator Joni Ernst, who gave the GOP rebuttal to the State of the Union. Missouri legislators passed a bill that would have nullified all federal gun laws and prohibited their enforcement.
“Nullification, Now Coming to the Supreme Court?” The Atlantic (theantlantic.com), January 21, 2015.

Concerned Americans looking for a quick way to restrain the federal government are continually offered dangerous tangents that “rely on faulty assumptions regarding the source of our problems.”

One of the most dangerous “remedies” right now is the organized drive to pressure state legislatures into calling a constitutional convention, using the process spelled out in Article V of the Constitution. (See our campaign to “Expose the Article V Con-con Fraud.”)

And other groups are pushing various forms of state action to nullify federal laws. In fact, one group, The John Birch Society, in July of this year (2015) posted a video clip arguing that state nullification is the responsible alternative to a Con-con.

However, those who promote State nullification of unconstitutional federal laws are advocating a confrontational step fraught with danger that misleads its supporters as to what can be accomplished. For the nullification movement completely ignores the real driver of federal usurpation and so its proposals would leave that influence intact.

We stand by what we wrote in our March 2011 Action Report, with the key excerpt:

“The Wrong Medicine

Our objection has nothing to do with whether states have the right to nullify federal laws, propose a constitutional amendment, or even call for a constitutional convention. The issue is whether those are the right things to do. Unfortunately, the arguments supporting any of those steps rely on faulty assumptions regarding the source of our problems.” — March 2011 Freedom First Society Action Report

We strongly suggest that those looking for solutions to an out-of-control federal government read our entire analysis, beginning on page 3 of that report.

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