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Congress cannot compel states

In a letter published Nov. 7 and titled “Sounds Like Somalia To Me,” Nancy Eubanks disparages former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack’s “theories” on local law enforcement and states that “the Constitution says the ultimate law of the land is the Supreme Court.”

What Ms. Eubanks may not realize is that Sheriff Mack argued a case before that very same Supreme Court in 1996, and on June 27, 1997, the majority ruling on that case stated, “[E]ven where Congress has the authority under the Constitution to pass laws requiring or prohibiting certain acts, it lacks the power directly to compel the states to require or prohibit those acts … Congress cannot compel the states to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. … Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the State’s officers directly. … Such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”

In addition, the majority opinion of the Supreme Court stated, “This separation of the two spheres (of government) is one of the Constitution’s structural protections of liberty. … Just as the separation and independence of the coordinate branches of the federal government serve to prevent the accumulation of excessive power in any one branch, a healthy balance of power between the states and the federal government will reduce the risk of tyranny and abuse from either front. … The Constitution protects us from our own best intentions: It divides power among sovereigns and among branches of government precisely so that we may resist the temptation to concentrate power in one location as an expedient solution to the crisis of the day.”



Ms. Eubanks went on to say that “we even fought a civil war that decided federal law supersedes state law.” This topic was specifically addressed in that same landmark 1997 Supreme Court decision, which indicated that the Federalist Papers expressed, “Preservation of the states as independent political entities (was) the price of the union,” and, “The framers explicitly chose a Constitution that confers upon Congress the power to regulate individuals, not states.”

Nancy Eubanks also appears to take issue with the Tea Party groups, which she seems to believe would like to “abolish taxes, along with the IRS.” From what I know of the Tea Party, I believe they advocate fiscal responsibility, a balanced budget and debt reduction, not “no taxes” and “tribalism”, as Ms. Eubanks described. And I very much doubt the Tea Party in any way promotes the idea of “the more AK-47s the better.” However, I would like to point out that in the U.S. Justice Department’s own “Operation Fast and Furious,” federal agents knowingly allowed more than 2,500 AK-47-type assault rifles to “walk” into Mexico and end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Two of those AK-47 rifles were used in the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in 2010.




Personally, I think that Mexican drug cartels murdering a U.S. Border Patrol Agent with guns literally provided by the U.S. government sounds “more like Somalia to me” than any of Sheriff Mack’s “theories” on law enforcement.

Terry McLaughlin lives in Nevada City.


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