I do miss Molly Ivins and her tart pen. It’s hard to pick my favorite phrases/putdowns; she once characterized America’s religious extremists as “Shiite Baptists,” and in response to reports that the then-Governor of Texas was taking Spanish lessons, said “Oh good–now he can be bi-ignorant.”

Molly also noted that “Nincompoopery has never been a bar to high office in our nation,” and although she focused primarily on idiocy within the Great State of Texas–a state replete with it, then and now– current officeholders across America are competing to demonstrate how right she was.

Take Missouri. Please.

The New York Times reports, “the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature is expected to enact a statute next month nullifying all federal gun laws in the state and making it a crime for federal agents to enforce them.”

Richard G. Callahan, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, is concerned. He cited a recent joint operation of federal, state and local law enforcement officials that led to 159 arrests and the seizing of 267 weapons, and noted that the measure “would have outlawed such operations, and would have made criminals out of the law enforcement officers.”

It isn’t ┬ájust criminals. As the Times explained, “A Missourian arrested under federal firearm statutes would even be able to sue the arresting officer.”

Of course, there’s a pesky little thing called the Supremacy Clause that makes this particular exercise as unconstitutional as it is stupid.

Molly would undoubtedly have a choice phrase or two for this nincompoopery, but all I can do is shake my head. Where do these people come from? And why are they holding elective office?


  1. Amazing. I fear this kind of crazy is not going to end well. The crazies are going to “stand their ground” against the ATF and it is going to be ugly. They are playing with fire here.

  2. The Supremacy Clause only applies to those areas in which both the federal and state government have the authority to regulate. Missouri is arguing the feds have no right to regulate firearms in Missouri, and thus it is not in the area of overlap in which the Supremacy Clause applies. If you look at Article I, Section 8, legislating as to guns ownership and possession does not appear to be on the list of explicit powers that Congress. That Congress is acting beyond its authority in regulating guns in the individual states is a actually a solid position founded on solid constitutional principles.

    But here’s the rub. In Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court decided that courts have the power to determine whether a law is constitutional. ( Up until then the idea of states’ being able to nullify federal laws deemed unconstitutional – as Missouri wishes to do – was a popular notion.) Therefore it is courts, usually federal courts, that get to decide whether the federal government overreached beyond those powers set forth in Article I, Section 8. The courts have allowed them to use the Interstate Commerce Clause to justify all sorts of federal legislation far beyond the laundry list of Article I, Section 8.

    So the issue isn’t the Supremacy Clause, but rather who decides. This dispute has been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court who says the judiciary gets to decide, not states. As some of my states rights friends point out it is a bit of a conflict of interest for courts to decide that courts have the power and not state legislatures. Not sure who else could have decided the dispute though. Of course, Chief Justice Marshall had a much bigger conflict of interest in Marbury v. Madison because he was personally affected by the dispute given his former position in the executive branch. Talk about a situation that screams for recusal!

  3. Hamilton contemplated, and in his notes advocated, Federal courts’ ability to overrule State courts and legislatures. There only can be one sovereign. That is why the Supremacy Clause makes sense. Another thing that is missing in the Constitution—any mention of States having “rights.” States have “powers.” People have “rights.” Paul has not been able to point out where in the Constitution States were professed to possess or had conferred upon them “rights.” The whole thing about States’ ability to nullify Federal acts was resolved by the Civil War. I have to agree with what he says about Chief Justice Marshall and Marbury v. Madison, although in agreeing with him, I in no way impugn the integrity of our former Chief Justice.

  4. Don’t worry, Sheila. Although I had technical difficulties and wasn’t able to do so with Fort Sumter, I’ll make sure to place kovlar-based transparent domes around all federal enclaves in Missouri. I know that may violate separatation of Me and State, but on the other hand I think they named the Supremacy Clause after Me.

  5. OK, that sounds so anti-Republican. But that aside, how does Missouri plan to enforce the law, especially in regard to federal agents? With GUNS perhaps?

  6. Mark, even Sheila didn’t agree with your extreme position on the show we shot at the library. The Supremacy Clause wasn’t placed in the Constitution to make states simply subunits of the national government like local governments are, in fact, subunits of state government. The national and state governments exist in a federal relationship. States and local governments exist in a unitary relationship.

    The purpose of the Supremacy Clause was to govern that area where states and the national government have overlapping power. When the national government decides to regulate in one of those areas, the national government law wins out because of the Supremacy Clause.

    The term “sovereign” means that the government entity has power that cannot be taken away by another government…but rather only by the people. The national government is sovereign as are the state governments. Each of their powers can only be taken away via a constitutional amendment in which the government (either state or national) has to approve. Our national constitution doesn’t have explicit grants of power to states. Under our Constitution instead have “reserve powers”…all powers not denied to those states by the Constitution. Thus, states don’t need specific authorization in the U.S. Constitution to pass a law on subject. The national government, however, does. The national government only has those powers specifically delegated to it, most particularly in Article I, Section 8.

    I don’t care if you want to call it states “rights” or “powers”. I prefer the latter, but you can bet states have powers just like the national government has powers.

  7. As a (sometimes) proud Missourian, I’ve found myself shaking my head at more and more of the “work” that has been coming out of Jefferson City and the comments of those that pretend to support our views in D.C. With the laws passed, bills considered, and actions in JC it’s more sad to me that they have strong support by many across the state. Makes me wonder where the voices of reason have gone…

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