A Texas Senate Committee last night approved and sent to the full Senate a bill which prohibits any Texas police officer from enforcing any provisions of federal gun control legislation, 1200 WOAI news reports.
The Senate Agriculture Rural Affairs and Homeland Security Committee wrestled with the bill for several hours, with Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) expressing serious reservations about it.
“If an officer enforces that law, it is going to be a criminal offense?” Uresti asked the bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Ken Paxon (R-McKinney).
“First degree felony,” Paxon replied.
In addition to locking up any law enforcement officers who try to enforce magazine size limits, restrictions on the types of guns people can own, or any measures which may be imposed by Congress or by the President, the bill also mandates that the Texas Attorney General sue any city or county which attempts to enforce the laws.
Mario Losoya with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a libertarian think tank, says it is an issue of state sovereignty.
“It is a very important limit on federal power,” he said. “Thank God they don’t have police officers enough, or a bureaucracy large enough, to regulate every aspect of our lives.”
He cites U.S. Supreme Court rulings that reinforce the idea that state law enforcement are not obligated to enforce federal laws, and supporters of the bill cited the fact that the federal government has repeatedly sued states which have tried to pass laws allowing local officers to enforce federal immigration laws, claiming that enforcement of the laws is universally a federal government responsibility.
Supporters say the feds can’t have it both ways, mandating that local law enforcement not enforce federal immigration law, but expecting that local police will enforce gun regulations.
But Uresti, who is a San Antonio criminal attorney, remained skeptical, asking at one point whether passing the law would mean there would be no probable cause for police to arrest a drug dealer or some other criminal if the tip they received was that the individual was involved in committing federal gun crimes.
“What happens in that instance then, does the officer not act on it,” Uresti asked. “Because it is not a state law to have a state law to have a clip that contains thirty rounds. Would you have to let that drug dealer go?”
Loyola said that would in fact not be probable cause for state law enforcement to move on that, and the arrest would not be legal.
Despite this, the committee voted 3-1 to send the bill to the full Senate for approval. It has already been approved by the House.