Arkansas Gun Rights And Challenging Federal Authority

Mar 12, 2013

 A new bill that seeks to prevent the federal government from regulating firearms in Arkansas is scheduled to go before a state House committee Tuesday morning. But many think it’s clearly unconstitutional.

State Representative Bob Ballinger, a Republican from Hindsville, is the sponsor of the bill.

“We are not going to allow for any more federal regulations of firearms in Arkansas," Ballinger told a crowd gathered for a Second Amendment rally in front of the Arkansas Capitol February 8.

Ballenger says Arkansas citizen’s Second Amendment rights are at stake.

“If we aren’t willing to take a stand as a state, then it’s inevitable, it’ll happen, maybe not to you, but it’ll happen to your kids," Ballinger said.

The bill claims the state has the same ability to refuse federal regulation of individual firearms ownership and use that it did in 1836 when Arkansas first became a state.

But the bill likely won't have any effect on federal regulation of firearms, Art English, professor of political science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said, due to the federal supremacy clause of the US Constitution.

Even though proposed federal gun restrictions could be found to be unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, an individual state can’t decide to ignore federal law, English said.

“I still think it would be unconstitutional," he said.

The Supremacy Clause says state law can’t trump federal law, and if there is any dispute over whether a federal law is constitutional, it’s the federal court system’s job to determine that and not the individual states.

Still, English says Arkansas has resisted federal authority before, namely in 1957 when it refused to desegregate Central High School. Lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment saying the federal government could not invade the state’s rights to run its school system.

“This was not a law, this was an amendment to our constitution which basically said that the federal government was acting unconstitutionally and could not invade the state’s rights in this respect," English said.

Meanwhile 29 lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors of the gun-rights bill.