While it didn’t get a lot of attention within the state, the Wall Street Journal has noticed “a new gun-rights law enacted in Tennessee prohibits the state from enforcing any limits on firearms imposed by international law and treaties.”
The measure is SB2395, sponsored by Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, and Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston. It passed the House 88-2 last month and the Senate approved 27-0 on April 7. Gov. Bill Haslam signed it into law on Tuesday.
(W)hether it will have any impact on guns in Tennessee is an open question.
The Tennessee statute “rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine,” writes Michael Boldin, executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center, which advocates for states’ rights and supported the measure.
The anti-commandeering doctrine, extending from Tenth Amendment and shaped by the late Justice Antonin Scalia in one of his most significant opinions, restrains the federal government from compelling state legislatures and state officers to enforce federal laws. (Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has been a vocal critic of the doctrine, calling it a “judge-made rule.”)
A fiscal memo attached to the Tennessee legislation speculates on its impact. “The frequency of any such future international law or treaty regulating the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories in Tennessee, not otherwise required by state or federal, is assumed to be relatively infrequent,” it states.
Mr. Boldin says such a scenario isn’t that far-fetched, pointing to the small-arms regulations within the Arms Trade Treaty approved by the U.N. General Assembly in 2013. The treaty, signed by Secretary of State John Kerry but never ratified by the Senate, drew objections from the National Rifle Association.