Now that Donald Trump is President, Democrats in states like California have suddenly rediscovered their mantra of “States’ Rights”, in which they believe as long as they’re in the majority they can use “States’ Rights” to deny people who reside in “their State” of rights they disagree with, the way Democrats did in the pre-emancipation proclamation era, or the way Democrats did in the pre-civil rights era, or the way Democrats did in the pre-voting rights era, or…
Of course they’re not alone; denial of rights is a bi-partisan thing. But it’s “fun” to point it out when they did, and continue to do.
California has even hired the help of former U.S. Attorney General Eric “Fast and Furious” Holder at a whopping $25,000 per month to defend itself from an evil and oppressive Trump-run Federal government poised to exercise force against the delicate progressive utopian flower.
“Having the former attorney general of the United States brings us a lot of firepower in order to prepare to safeguard the values of the people of California,” said Kevin de León, the Democratic leader of the CA Senate.
A value Kevin de León believes needs safeguarding is the “state’s right” to deny its people the right to keep and bear arms… sorry, “enact common sense gun safety measures”.
The problem with “States’ Rights” is… it doesn’t exist.
“How can you say that?! Tenth Amendment! Tenth Amendment!!!”
Ok, repeating yourself doesn’t make something say something it doesn’t say, just like shouting “Separation of Church and State!” doesn’t mean the First Amendment says that either… but let’s keep our focus on so-called “States’ Rights”.
Here is your Tenth Amendment:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Notice anything missing? The Tenth Amendment was about delegation of power, not rights. It states that the United States, the federal government, only has specific powers that the Constitution gives it the authority to do and also denies it from doing, and that all other powers belong to the individual States or the people.
It’s not splitting hairs. Words have meanings, at least they used to. States don’t have rights; States have power, and the power of a State is also limited and controlled by each State’s Constitution. And every single State’s primary role is to protect the rights and liberties of the people.
States don’t have a right or authority to deny people their rights under the Tenth Amendment, because States don’t have rights – people do. Some of these rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution and State Constitutions, but as the Ninth Amendment also states:
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
It doesn’t take a constitutional scholar to understand the meaning of these things, but maybe a modern interpretation is what’s needed: “just cuz we say people have these rights that we wrote down here, doesn’t mean they don’t have other rights too, and you can’t take those rights away either just cuz we didn’t write them down, bruh.”
States have the Tenth Amendment power to pass laws and enact policies to run their individual States the way they see fit to locally respond to the needs of its people, but not at the expense of the rights of the people. That is where the line is drawn, or is supposed to be drawn.
A power also delegated to the United States federal government is to guarantee a State doesn’t deny people their rights – the Fourteenth Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1875):
“The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a State from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, and from denying to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, but it adds nothing to the rights of one citizen as against another. It simply furnishes an additional guaranty against any encroachment by the States upon the fundamental rights which belong to every citizen as a member of society. The duty of protecting all its citizens in the enjoyment of an equality of rights was originally assumed by the States, and it still remains there. The only obligation resting upon the United States is to see that the States do not deny the right. This the Amendment guarantees, but no more. The power of the National Government is limited to the enforcement of this guaranty.”
The right to keep and bear arms is a right that exists without any government stating that it does. If there was no government at all, if there was no Second Amendment, you still have a right to arms. This is what the Ninth Amendment conveys, but luckily the right to arms was recognized as important enough to write down. All our Constitution does though is state that the federal government can’t infringe upon that right, nor can a State.
But they both do, they have done, and, in California’s case, continues to do.
It is the duty of the United States government to make, enforce, and uphold laws against States that infringe upon our rights. It is not an unjust federal encroachment upon State power to do this. While some say they don’t want the federal government exercising power against a State because of the precedent it’ll make against “State’s Rights”, in their next breath they’ll want California gun laws overturned by the Supreme Court – which is as much part of the federal government as Congress and the Presidency.
There are constitutional ways for the legislative branch to make, and for the executive branch to enforce, laws that protect the rights of the people in States that infringe upon them. The people don’t have to wait for 5 out of 9 unelected government appointed lawyers to do so.
Right now, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to federally protect the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Historically, it isn’t often that the House, Senate, and the Presidency are held by Republicans, a party which purportedly touts their support of gun rights; it’s time they exercise their constitutionally delegated powers against States that deny people their rights under the false notion of “States’ Rights”.