Over 90 percent of Virginia’s counties have claimed “2nd Amendment Sanctuary” status since the Nov. 5 election that gave Democrats control of Richmond for the first time in decades. But their rhetoric doesn’t match reality. The resolutions are symbolic and have no legal force.
The wave of sanctuary resolutions comes in response to state lawmakers, who along with Gov. Ralph Northam, have promised Virginians a number of strict gun control measures in the 2020 legislative session.
A vast majority of the state’s 95 counties have adopted some type of sanctuary language. This has prompted Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) to suggest that Northam (D) “may have to nationalize the National Guard to enforce the law.” Meanwhile, the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in support of a militia.
Here’s what to know about Second Amendment sanctuaries in Virginia:
Do they have the force of law?
So far, all the measures being passed are resolutions, not ordinances. In Virginia, as in most other states, resolutions are generally passed to express the political opinion of a local governing body and are not legally binding. Ordinances are used to enact law.
In Stafford County, where a sanctuary resolution passed unanimously at its Dec. 17 meeting, Board Chairman Gary Snellings said, “It is symbolic, there is no question about it.”
Although the term “sanctuary” implies comparisons to local jurisdictions that refuse to participate in the enforcement of some federal immigration laws, the similarities don’t go beyond the name itself.
San Francisco is likely the most prominent immigration “sanctuary city.” The “City and County of Refuge” Ordinance, first passed in 1989, “generally prohibits City employees from using City funds or resources to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the enforcement of federal immigration law unless such assistance is required by federal or state law.”
While most of the Virginia resolutions include language similar to a model resolution provided by Virginia Citizens Defense League expressing the Board’s “intent” that public funds “not be used to restrict the Second Amendment rights of the citizens,” intent does not have the legal force of a prohibition, as in San Francisco.
Tazewell County Board member Charlie Stacy said his county’s resolution was passed to set up a court challenge.
“The resolution is truly designed to allow us to hire lawyers to see that laws infringing on the Second Amendment never last any longer than it takes a court to remove them,” he said.
Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said the resolutions are “meant to put political pressure on elected officials.”
Will local militias defend counties against new gun laws?
A growing number of media outlets have reported that Tazewell County is forming a militia to defend citizens against any new gun control measures.
Earlier this month, the county took things a step further than others by passing a second resolution supporting the right to a well-funded and regulated militia.
“Our position is that Article I, Section 13, of the Constitution of Virginia, reserves the right to ‘order’ militia to the localities,” said County Administrator Eric Young. “Therefore, counties, not the state, determine what types of arms may be carried in their territory and by whom. So, we are ‘ordering’ the militia by making sure everyone can own a weapon.”
As with 2nd Amendment Sanctuary measures, the Tazewell militia measure is also a non-binding resolution.
When asked about how the county would prepare residents to be militiamen, Tazewell County Board member Tom Lester explained:
“Our Militia Resolution will be funding firearms safety and training for our county’s citizens, the ROTC and the public school systems – as well as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. These preparations are done to prepare our citizens to be able to become de facto militiamen if need be.”
County Board Chairman Travis Hackworth echoed this telling News Channel 11 that funding from the budget would go to programs such as the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts, JROTC programs and weapons training courses.
The following is based on a speech given to the LP Mises Caucus “Take Human Action Bash” in New Orleans on June 30, 2018
In 1996, voters in California passed Prop 215, the “compassionate use act,” to legalize marijuana for limited medical purposes. In the run up to the vote, three presidents came out to California to explain that voters couldn’t do this.
Why not? According to their messaging, the supremacy clause of the constitution says that federal law always wins. And marijuana is illegal under federal law.
Well, that marketing campaign didn’t work out too well for them.
When Prop 215 passed, the message from the Clinton administration was the same – we don’t recognize your state law. Attorney General Janet Reno said, ”We want to make clear that Federal law still applies.”
An LA Times article from Jan. 1997 repeated the same message, noting that “Federal officials … vowed to pursue California physicians who recommend marijuana for their patients.”
The threats from the Clinton administration didn’t stop people in California, or other states for that matter. And by the end of his term, seven states authorized medical marijuana in defiance of federal law.
From there, the Bush administration ramped it up, taking a hard-line public stance asserting federal law ruled the roost on weed, conducting roughly 200 marijuana raids in states over his two terms. And in 2005, the Supreme Court also affirmed this uncompromising federal prohibition in a famous case known as Gonzales v. Raich.
The Constitution imposes rules about how the United States is to enter a war, and the Trump administration has violated those rules in Syria.
THE PRESIDENT AND WAGING WAR
Under the Constitution, the Founders intentionally prohibited the Executive branch from having the power to unilaterally determine whether or not the country would engage in war. Few were more adamant about this than James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” who wrote:
“The constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the legislature.”
Thus, Congress has the power to determine if the country will wage offensive war and against whom. Once that decision is made by the Congress, the President is in charge of waging that war.
Madison emphasized this point again:
“…The executive has no right, in any case to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.”
“In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department.”
The power in question is delegated to Congress in Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution:
[Congress shall have Power…] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
As I wrote in an early-2007 article, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, on the other hand, refers to the President as the “commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States.”
What the founders meant by this clause was once war was declared, it would then be the responsibility of the President, as the commander-in-chief, to direct the war.
Alexander Hamilton supported this when he said that the President, while lacking the power to declare war, would have “the direction of war when authorized.”
Thomas Jefferson stated this quite eloquently when, in 1801, he said that, as President, he was“unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense.”
Thus, under the Constitution, the President, acting without a Congressional declaration of war, is authorized only to repel invasion and sudden attacks. Pre-emptive strikes, “humanitarian missions,” and other undeclared military expeditions are not powers delegated to the executive branch in the Constitution, and are, therefore, unlawful.
As an aside, it’s also important to note that no federal branch has the constitutional authority to transfer powers delegated to it to another branch. So, for example, if Congress would pass a resolution giving the President the power to make the final decision on whether or not the country will go to war, that would be a transfer of delegated power, and unconstitutional as well.
There simply is no debate. Congress, not the President, decides if the country will go to war.
IS IT A “WAR?”
Confronted with the Constitutional requirement that Congress is the federal branch that determines when the country goes to war, supporters of unilateral executive power will often take one of two paths to avoid following the Constitutional mandate that Congress declare the war before the Executive can take action.
First, they’ll refer to the action as defensive.
This is the classic argument that “proves too much.” As James Madison pointed out, a constitutional argument is “triable by its consequences.” Here, the consequences would be essentially unlimited executive war power, since almost any significant activity can be linked to “national security” or a need to “defend American interests.” Because it is incontrovertible that unlimited executive war power is not what the Founders’ Constitution granted, the argument fails.
In short, actions only qualify as “defensive” under the constitution if they are in response to a direct attack or an imminent threat of attack. While not conclusive, there is Founding-era evidence to support the constitutionality of a defensive military response to protect U.S. personnel abroad as well. It’s also instructive to note that even this broader understanding is limited to “U.S. personnel abroad” and not just “U.S. interests.”
Or, they’ll refer to the action as something other than “war.”
Under the Constitution, a war is a war whether you call it a war or something else.
Founding-Era dictionaries and other sources, both legal and lay, tell us that when the Constitution was approved, “war” consisted of any hostilities initiated by a sovereign over opposition. A very typical dictionary definition was, “the exercise of violence under sovereign command against such as oppose.” (Barlow, 1772-73). I have found no suggestion in any contemporaneous source that operations of the kind the U.S. is conducting were anything but “war.”
All U.S. military actions qualify as “violence under sovereign command.” And attacks in Syria, whether for strategic, political, or humanitarian purposes, are “over opposition.”
The bottom line? By using military to engage in hostilities with a foreign nation without a Congressional declaration of war, Donald Trump has committed a serious violation of the Constitution.
While he certainly is not the first to do so in regard to war powers, it’s high time that he becomes the last.
A $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill. More military spending than any time in history. How did things get to this point?
Even some of the most loyal supporters of President Trump have expressed both frustration and dismay that he signed an omnibus spending bill larger than all but one signed by former President Obama.
Angry opposition has come from the likes of Laura Ingraham, Amy Kremer, and Ann Coulter. But not everyone is upset.
Matt House, communications director for Sen. Chuck Schumer, said on Twitter that he’s “tired of all the winning.” Schumer himself was excited about all that was included in the spending bill. He said, “It’s a funny thing. In a certain sense, we’re able to accomplish more in the minority than we were when we had the presidency or even were in the majority.” And Defense Secretary James Mattis said he was “humbled” by receiving the “largest military budget in history.”
Many people may have been stunned by the President signing such a bill, especially if they were only paying attention to the claims of mainstream politicians and pundits the last two years. On the left, the great fear was that Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress would slash and burn all kinds of federal programs. On the right, and in some libertarian circles, the great hope was pretty much the same.
But no one should be surprised at how things have turned out so far. For opponents of big government and massive military budgets, the president’s core beliefs are the greatest danger and strongest reason to expect more of the same in the future.
In a brief press conference last week explaining why he’d sign legislation so many of his voters obviously opposed, Trump made it quite clear. He said his “number one duty is to keep Americans safe.”
But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The real “number one duty” of the president is to follow the Constitution.
This is laid out in Article II, Section 1, Clause 8 of the Constitution – the oath of office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
In his press conference, President Trump appeared to sincerely lament some of the programs the omnibus will fund. But, because of his incorrect belief that his top job is to keep Americans safe, coupled with an errant view that more military spending will do the job, he was willing to set aside those issues to achieve his primary goal.
While some might be tempted to shrug off the president’s statement as one of convenience, an excuse to get away with signing the massive spending bill, the unfortunate truth is this is part and parcel of his core belief and one that he’s repeated numerous times.
Last May, he said, “my highest duty is to keep America safe.” He repeated this in a tweet last September, saying “Making America Safe is my number one priority.”
Think of it this way: A president who believes his top duty is to “keep Americans educated,” and holds the view that more federal spending on education would accomplish that goal is far more likely to sign a spending bill that provides the biggest education budget in history, even if it also included funding for many other projects that president opposed.
The same could happen with any federal program that any president holds as their top priority.
As long as President Trump continues to believe that more military spending will result in him doing the job he incorrectly believes to be his “highest duty,” no one should be surprised when the next omnibus expands military spending even further. It’s the sure-fire way to guarantee he’ll ignore everything else Congress is certain to put in the legislation, including more funding for federal programs the president or his supporters have repeatedly said they oppose.
The “Father of the Constitution,” James Madison, issued a poignant warning:
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.
President Trump will never be able to heed this warning unless he has a foundational shift in core beliefs and embraces his real “highest duty.”
PHOENIX, Ariz. (Mar. 8, 2017) – Today, an Arizona Senate Committee passed a bill that would eliminate state capital gains taxes on gold and silver specie, and encourage its use as currency. Final approval of the legislation would help undermine the Federal Reserve’s monopoly on money.
Former US Rep. Ron Paul testified today in the Senate Finance Committee in support of House Bill 2014 (HB2014). The legislation, which previously passed the state House by a 35-24 vote, would eliminate state capital gains taxes on income “derived from the exchange of one kind of legal tender for another kind of legal tender.” The bill defines legal tender as “a medium of exchange, including specie, that is authorized by the United States Constitution or Congress for the payment of debts, public charges, taxes and dues.” “Specie” means coins having precious metal content.
In effect, passage of the bill would, as Paul noted, “legalize competition in a Constitutional fashion.”
Under current Arizona law, gold and silver are subject to capital gains tax when exchanged for Federal Reserve notes, or when used in barter transactions. If the purchasing power of the Federal Reserve note has decreased due to inflation, the metals’ nominal dollar value generally rises and that triggers a “gain.” In most cases, of course, the capital gain is purely fictional. But these “gains” are still taxed — thus unfairly punishing people using precious metals as money.
“We ought not to tax money, and that’s a good idea. It makes no sense to tax money,” said Paul. “Paper is not money, it’s a substitute for money and it’s fraud,” Paul continued, noting the importance of honesty money vs federal reserve notes.
Today, the Senate Finance Committee passed the bill by a 4-3 vote along party lines.
Antony Davies is an associate professor of economics at Duquesne University and Mercatus Affiliated Senior Scholar at George Mason University. His primary research interests include econometrics and public policy.
Find Mr. Davies at his website: antolin-davies.com
His podcast: www.wordsandnumbers.org
And on Learn Liberty: http://www.learnliberty.org/speakers/antony-davies/
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