North Dakota Shouldn’t Be Obliged To Help Enforce Bad Federal Policy

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It seems that legislation introduced by North Dakota state Rep. Roscoe Streyle which would prohibit the use of state resources to enforce new federal gun control laws is drawing the ire of state law enforcement officials.

“So what next? Someone doesn’t like federal transportation law?” sniffed Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney on the Jay Thomas Show yesterday. “Now you can order it’s against the law for us to enforce federal traffic regs or highway rules. Emotion starts carrying away common sense.”

I suspect that Sheriff Laney’s problem is less the supposed lack of “common sense” in this law than the federal grants his department might not get should it pass. The federal government’s primary instrument for luring states into going along with federal policy is, frankly, bribery through grants and other appropriations. If states don’t want to go along, the federal government holds the state’s funding hostage.

Which is yet another reason, in addition to the sorry finances of the federal government in general, for states making themselves independent of federal largess.

But to the “common sense” issue, why shouldn’t states like North Dakota refuse to help implement bad federal policy? If our elected officials decide that a specific federal policy is misguided, whether it be transportation policy or firearm policy, isn’t it their right (and perhaps their duty) to refuse to help with the implementation of that policy?

We’re not talking about nullification is here. This bill isn’t saying the federal government can’t enforce their new gun control laws here. We’d just be saying we won’t help. What’s wrong with that?

And, to be clear, the Obama administration has endorsed this position in other instances. We all remember the showdown between the State of Arizona and the federal government over the enforcement of illegal immigration laws. If the feds can pick and choose when the states enforce federal laws, then can’t the states pick and choose which laws they want to help the feds enforce?

This situation highlights the beauty, and importance, of our federalist system of government. We have distributed government for a reason, and we ought not be so dismissive of the concept of a state asserting its rights under the federalist system.

Here’s my interview with Rep. Roscoe Streyle who introduced the bill:

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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