Even as some governors and mayors eye tighter restrictions on firearms in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings, state legislators across the country are launching pre-emptive strikes against federal gun control proposals that may never even make it through Congress.
More than half of the states have seen lawmakers push measures to make any new federal gun restrictions illegal within the states or exempt firearms made and sold within the states from federal regulation.
The push, supporters say, is a direct response to President Obama's proposed controls, which include bans on military-style semi-automatic firearms, high-capacity ammunition magazines, universal background checks for gun purchasers, and 23 executive actions, many of which are directives to federal agencies.
Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe said he took his cue from a proposal in Wyoming called the Firearm Protection Act that would invalidate any federal restrictions on firearms or gun magazines.
"When I saw what was happening with [Mr.] Obama and [Vice President Joseph R.] Biden, we thought it would be a good idea to do something similar in Pennsylvania" to what Wyoming has done, Mr. Metcalfe said. "We wanted to send a strong, clear message, and that's what we're doing."
Mr. Metcalfe's legislation would prohibit enforcement of any new federal restrictions on guns or ammunition and require the state to intercede against any federal attempt to register, restrict or ban guns that are currently legal.
Farther west, Oklahoma state Sen. Nathan Dahm has received national — and international — attention for a speech last month at a Second Amendment rally that has been viewed more than 51,000 times on YouTube. Mr. Dahm introduced several bills on the Second Amendment, including one that would declare any federal acts or orders on guns to be invalid in the state.
Mr. Dahm, however, said he wasn't expecting the attention. He also made sure to point out that bills were introduced before the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., nearly two months ago, and his 2nd Amendment Preservation Act was introduced before Mr. Obama rolled out his proposals.
"This is not a call to arms — it's a call to action," he said. "I've gotten comments from as far away as Russia, Puerto Rico. If we didn't have those weapons, we'd still be speaking English with an accent. We'd still be drinking tea and paying huge taxes for it."
Some states, like New York, have gone the opposite route and jumped out in front of anything Mr. Obama or Congress may do. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed into law the country's strictest gun regulations, including bans on military-style, semiautomatic firearms and ammunition magazines that hold more than seven bullets — even more stringent than Mr. Obama's threshold of 10.
But Wyoming, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma are certainly not alone in pushing back against federal proposals — state legislators in at least 26 states have proposed similar legislation.
Virginia state Delegate Robert G. Marshall's bill included a slight twist. State police would not be allowed to assist in any prosecution or investigations of federal gun laws in the state.
The bill was not expected to have a direct fiscal impact on the state, but according to state police, if federal grant funding was removed in response to gun-related initiatives, the state could risk losing nearly $800,000.
Mr. Marshall, Prince William Republican, was incensed that the bill was effectively killed for the year, saying the fiscal impact statement was brought to him at the last minute and the state shouldn't be concerned with what the federal government may or may not give them anyway.
"So what if we lost that?" he said. "If the federal government is so stupid to coerce us into accepting this 30 pieces of silver, I'd say reject the money."
Despite the prevalence of the bills and the zeal of the legislators behind them, John Hudak of the Brookings Institution says they won't lead to enforceable laws.
"The efforts going on in states right now will be ineffective in and of themselves," said Mr. Hudak, a researcher of presidential power. "This is political pandering — it's not an effective or a proper move by a state government."
Mr. Hudak conceded the messaging from the White House on its gun proposals and enforcement mechanisms could have been better — but that its message was still willfully misinterpreted.
"They were misinterpreting 'we're going to do everything in our power' with 'we're going to do everything,'" he said. "These concerns over the executive actions are typically based on an ignorance of what the executive actions are actually doing and the true reach and power of the president."
Mr. Obama's executive actions include directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on gun violence and directing Congress to confirm a permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Mr. Hahm, though, argued the reading of the U.S. Constitution is clear and that the Supremacy Clause, which states federal law takes precedence over state law, doesn't apply when federal law infringes on the Constitution.
"Anything that infringes upon that is not the supreme law of the land," he said.
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