Arizona's efforts to send message to feds a waste
For a couple of years now, Arizona's leaders have seemingly been obsessed with “sending messages” to the federal government.
The idea was that even if a law is unlikely to be upheld by the courts, it is better to pass it just so federal officials would realize the state is unhappy with things at the federal level.
But maybe there is some sanity returning to the Legislature in regard to sending messages. The reason for hope comes with the withdrawal – at least temporarily – the other day of a proposal to thumb our nose at federal gun measures.
While there is certainly good reason to debate federal gun measures and to defend the gun rights of Americans, the proposal sponsored by Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City stepped over the line.
It would have made it a felony for any federal agent or employee to enforce “any act, order, law, statute, rule or regulation” involving firearms, accessories and ammunition that were made or kept within Arizona. The proposal was spurred by pending federal gun legislation and executive actions by President Obama on gun issues.
It would pit state authorities against federal authorities trying to enforce federal laws, which would undoubtedly be unconstitutional. Even Ward acknowledged there would be constitutional questions about the law. The courts have long supported federal supremacy over conflicting state law, but some continue to challenge that concept, not only here in Arizona but in other states.
It reminds us of recent state efforts to become involved in immigration enforcement, thus usurping powers that belong to the federal government. That was another “message” to the federal government. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state didn't have the necessary authority. It would likely do the same when it comes to guns.
That does not mean states cannot challenge federal actions or that the federal government doesn't need to be restrained at times, including on gun measures. But we have representatives of our state in Congress who can fight issues of concern at the federal level. And, if necessary, federal actions can be battled in court, including executive orders of the president.
Trying to send state legislative “messages” via unworthy and likely unconstitutional laws is not the right approach, however.
It wastes legislative effort that could be better used to deal with realistic solutions to problems that are truly within state authority. And it wastes taxpayer money defending pointless laws.
Unfortunately, legislation similar to Ward's is still pending in the Legislature and even hers may be resurrected. So, there may yet be another message sent to Washington that will be “returned to sender” stamped unconstitutional.