The gun-loving contingent of the Arkansas Senate notched a big win Wednesday, passing a doozy of a bill that declares federal gun laws null and void within state borders.
Senate Bill 298 by Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch), the “Arkansas Sovereignty Act of 2021,” aims to stop every federal gun law at the Arkansas border. Anyone who has ever taken a United States civics class will recognize the unconstitutionality of the bill. Still, Arkansas senators passed the measure by a vote of 28-7, and it now heads to the House side to be voted on there. Should it pass, it would then go to the governor’s desk.
This audacious bill is a huge F.U. to the federal government, practically a declaration of secession. Its message essentially is that the guys in D.C. can take their laws and shove it. To wit:
All acts, laws, orders, rules, and regulations of the United States Government, whether past, present, or future, that infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to 2the United States Constitution and Arkansas Constitution, Article 2, § 5, are invalid in this state, shall not be recognized by this state, are specifically rejected by this state, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in this state.
This bill “simply is about states’ rights, state sovereignty and our God-given inalienable rights that each of us received as a virtue of just being born,” Stubblefield said in introducing the bill. SB 298 also lays out penalties for anyone, local law enforcement included, who helps federal officers or agencies who try to enforce federal gun laws on Arkansas soil.
Some of the federal gun laws currently in place require background checks for guns sold by licensed retailers, prohibit unauthorized people from bringing guns to schools, keep convicted violent felons from owning guns and prohibit the sale of automatic weapons to civilians.
Stubblefield acknowledged the bill will likely have significant financial repercussions, both in legal fees for trying to defend such an obviously unconstitutional measure and possibly in loss of federal funds coming to the state.
“I think the federal government is going say, ‘If you don’t follow what we tell you, you don’t get the money,’ ” said Sen. Mathew Pitsch (R-Fort Smith).
Stubblefield was undeterred. “There comes a time, in the history of our country, especially now, when we have to say, ‘Are we willing to give up our God-given rights for some dollars?’ … The federal government is not the law of the land.”
But Sen. Jim Hendren, a newly proclaimed independent from Gravette, wasn’t convinced. How will Arkansas law enforcement officers, who are used to applying laws both federal and local, know what laws they’ll face criminal charges for enforcing if SB 298 goes into effect?
“When it’s a blatant infringement of the Constitution, I’ll think we’ll know,” Stubblefield answered.
Asking local law enforcement officers to make judgements on constitutionality, issues usually reserved for the courts, doesn’t make sense, Hendren said.
“It’s like ‘The Twilight Zone.’ I don’t understand what we’re doing with the Constitution here,” he said.
Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) said the primacy of the Bill of Rights has never been in doubt since 1791, and that this bill is not only unnecessary, but will be expensive to defend in court. “There is no threat to the Second Amendment. I don’t know why it keeps getting politicized every four years. ‘They’re going to take away my guns.’ No, they’re not.” Chesterfield also pushed back against fining state officials $500 to $1,000 if they cooperate with federal law enforcement, as would be allowed by this bill.
This bill is necessary because people are coming to take your guns, Sen. Terry Rice (R-Waldron) said. “They are not following the U.S. Constitution in Washington, D.C., right now. For the large part, they are ignoring it.”
Division in the nation is setting the stage for a mass government confiscation of firearms, Rice said. “You better get in your mind what you’re going to do when you’re told to make that decision, because there are people on record that have high contacts in government, and some that are elected officials, who said they’re going to take your firearms away from you. They’ll do it if they can.”
All of the Senate Democrats except Larry Teague of Nashville voted against the bill, as did Hendren. It passed with 27 yes votes.
SB 298 is not the first extreme gun bill for Arkansas in 2021. Lawmakers have already passed a “stand your ground” bill that allows people to kill if they feel threatened, even if they could have simply walked away from the dangerous situation instead.