WV attorney general offers guidance on gun laws

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

West Virginia is a pretty pro-gun place. They like their firearms and they’re not afraid to admit it. I respect that about the state, even if I have to admit to making more than a few jokes at their expense over the years.

I meant it in good fun, though, because when it comes to the Second Amendment, they’re definitely in the “alright” category for me.

One thing they’ve done is their own version of the Second Amendment Protection Act that has popped up in other states. Now, the state’s attorney general has issued some guidance on how it’ll be applied.

“The right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution,” Attorney General Morrisey said Thursday when announcing the guidelines. “Yet, there is a deep concern on the part of many Americans that the federal government will try to encroach on our Constitutional rights through presidential executive orders or through acts of Congress. The publication of this guidance will help our state’s law enforcement understand what they can and cannot do in this respect under West Virginia statute.”

Morrisey said enforcement of federal firearms laws is a federal responsibility, not the responsibility of West Virginia law enforcement agencies when federal gun laws are in conflict with state Code.

For example, he said, a West Virginia state or local law enforcement agency, department or officer “may not assist federal authorities in executing an arrest warrant just for violation of federal gun laws when the person to be arrested may lawfully possess such firearms, firearms accessories or ammunition under state law.”

The new law also provides that no member of state or local law enforcement may be required to act in a law enforcement capacity to enforce a federal statute, executive order, agency order, rule or regulation determined by the West Virginia Attorney General to infringe upon citizens’ Second Amendment rights, Morrisey said.

Of course, I expect there to be a lot of bellyaching about how this is making things too hard on law enforcement, but frankly, I’m not interested.

Yes, I support law enforcement, but supporting them doesn’t mean subjugating our rights just to make things easier on them. It never has and it never will.

As a result, they’ll just have to learn to deal.

Frankly, I agree with Morrisey on this. See, states can’t actually nullify federal law. The supremacy clause is a thing that exists, after all, and while we can argue that gun control laws are unconstitutional, the courts haven’t agreed on that.

So, since actual nullification is off the table, what’s left is what Morrisey is doing. Basically, they can’t nullify the law, but local and state police don’t have to take part in any arrests for federal gun control law violations.

Now, I’ve been thrilled to see these laws passed, but I do have concerns.

In particular, I’m worried that this will lead to a greater expansion of federal law enforcement. After all, if they’re going to be unable to count on local support, they may end up expanding federal agencies to provide the manpower to make some of these arrests.

That might have far-reaching ramifications we haven’t been considering.

It’s at least something we should be thinking about. I’m not saying we should stop trying to protect the Second Amendment at the state level, only that we should think about unintended consequences.