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VICE's Glaring Inconsistency About States Ignoring Federal Law

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

We haven’t seen Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi denounce the growing number of states that have declared themselves to be Second Amendment Sanctuaries, but give it a few weeks and we may get to that point. As it is, a number of Left-leaning media outlets are starting to fret over the increasing popularity of the 2A Sanctuary movement, including VICE News, which is home to a new piece warning that the movement could “destroy Joe Biden’s gun control plans” (fingers crossed that they’re right).

I find it strange that VICE has so openly embraced gun control legislation, given that the outfit is convinced that the War on Drugs has been a complete and absolute failure. VICE TV is full of shows where hosts ingest various illegal substances for the amusement and edification of viewers, but they seem ready to embrace putting millions of people in prison for the non-violent offense of maintaining possession of their legally owned AR-15s without registering them with the government, and they appear to be truly bothered by the growing number of towns, counties, and states declaring that they won’t be enforcing any new federal gun control measures that come out of Washington, D.C.

If states want to pass laws legalizing recreational use of marijuana despite a federal prohibition, VICE is all in favor (for the record, I am too, though I’d prefer to see it legalized at the federal level). If states pass laws declaring that they won’t enforce any federal gun ban, on the other hand, VICE is deeply troubled.

Before President Joe Biden had even moved into the White House, anti-government extremists, militias, and right-wing politicians alike were stoking fears of a looming gun-grabbing campaign.

Throughout his campaign, Biden repeatedly vowed to be an effective leader on gun control, and has called for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban—the holy grail for gun control groups. Last month, on the heels of several mass shootings, he announced that he’d directed the Department of Justice to issue new guidance designed to curb untraceable ghost guns, and called on Congress to pass legislation to improve the background check system.

Even though Biden’s actions have so far fallen short of his lofty campaign-trail promises, they set off alarm bells throughout red-state America.

Got that? “Extremists” were “stoking fears of a looming gun-grabbing campaign.” Heaven forbid VICE simply report that a large number of gun owners are concerned that Joe Biden is going to try to make good on his campaign pledge to ban modern sporting rifles and require existing owners to either hand them over to the government or register them under the National Firearms Act with the empty promise that we’ll be able to keep them afterwards.

VICE then provides a platform for several gun control activists to weigh in on the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement, and to no one’s surprise, they’re not in favor.

Symbolic or not, Giffords director of litigation Hannah Shearer says these laws will create confusion on a local level. “Either way, making it a state policy to not enforce federal gun laws is going to compromise public safety and leave state and local officials confused about what they are allowed to do to help with the enforcement of federal gun laws,” Shearer said.

The surge in energy behind this movement comes from the confluence of anti-government rhetoric now dominating mainstream GOP politics, and strategizing around the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court, says Robert Spitzer, professor of political science at SUNY Cortland and author of “The Politics of Gun Control.”

It would be incredibly odd for “anti-government” activists to use government as a tool of resistance to unconstitutional gun control laws, but VICE offers no pushback to Spitzer’s bizarre claim. It’s not anti-government rhetoric or the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court that’s fueling the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement; it’s the Democrats’ embrace of an anti-gun agenda that could turn tens of millions of responsible gun owners in to criminals overnight and turn the right of the people to keep and bear arms into a privilege to be doled out to a chosen few by the State.

Both Shearer and Spitzer do their best to claim that the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is generally symbolic in nature, though Spitzer also claims that if the laws have a “material consequence,” then the Biden administration could move to revoke federal grants to states that have adopted 2A Sanctuary policies. That could happen, if Biden really wanted a fight on his hands, but given the Supreme Court’s ruling in Printz v. United States back in the 1990s, its clear that states have no obligation to perform federal law enforcement duties.

VICE even acknowledges this, however reluctantly, with a quote from Prof. Robert Cottrell at George Washington University School of Law.

“You can’t forcibly deputize state and local police, and force them to enforce federal law as such. We saw that again with the immigration issue,” said Cottrol. “We potentially might see that again with the Second Amendment or gun issue, and the Biden administration.”

“It’s quite one thing if state authorities are saying they won’t enforce a federal law and another if they’re saying they will actively resist and act against a federal law,” Cottrol added.

The state-level sanctuary movement does offer even more of an obstacle to Biden’s gun agenda, though—in particular reinstating the assault weapon ban, which was law in the U.S. between 1994 and 2004.

Not only is it unclear that the ban would muster enough support even among Democrats, but there are approximately 20 million assault rifles in circulation in the U.S. population. That, together with a slew of states declining to enforce such a ban, would make it very difficult to enforce.

Said Cottrol: “How do you go about enforcing a law that’s going to be resisted by tens of millions of people, without cooperation of state authorities?”

How indeed? While VICE may view this as a problem, they should at least acknowledge that one of the inspirations for the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement has been the success of the push to legalize pot at the state level. If the reporters for VICE truly believe that legalizing pot at the state level strikes a blow for freedom while protecting the right to keep and bear arms is an example of “right wing extremism,” I’d encourage them to put down the bong and head to a gun shop to spend some quality time with gun owners. They might find they’ve got more in common with the “gun nuts” than they realized.

Dec 02, 2021 7:30 PM ET