This comment will delve into the question of whether or not the Constitution allows states to refuse to comply with federal law. This analysis requires the application of a constitutional principle that reaches far beyond the scope of the Right to Bear Arms; it calls into play the vertical separation of powers and the rights belonging to state sovereigns described in the Tenth Amendment. The comment will proceed as follows. Part II will address the constitutionality of House Bill 2340, compared against other kinds of legislation and in light of case law. It will be argued that the Federal Government cannot compel states to comply with certain types of federal law, and that states, as sovereigns, may pass state legislation to refuse such compliance. Part III will in turn explain the legal ramifications of state defiance, including Congress's constitutional power under the Spending Clause to grant or withhold federal funding where it sees fit, so long as the conditions are not deemed coercive. Consequently, Virginia and other states may have to forfeit federal funding should these bills pass, and will likely refer the bills to their respective appropriations committees to assess the economic forfeiture incurred by signing a non-compliance bill into law.
Response or Comment
Brielle Hunt, Federalism as a Preventive Measure: Avoiding State Enforcement of Federal Anti-Gun Legislation in 2013, 17 Rich. J. L. Pub. Int. 55 (2013).