ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) – State lawmakers have spent a lot of time and energy on gun rights in the state legislature this session.
This push for pro-gun legislation includes an effort by Senator Paul Sanford (R-Madison) that would allow Alabama law enforcement to ignore any federal gun laws that the state deemed unconstitutional.
But that kind of tactic faces a steep history of costly failure.
This is a story about gun rights. It’s a story about our state legislature.
But it doesn’t start in Montgomery; it start’s in South Carolina in the 1820’s.
Athens State University Professor of History Sean Busick specializes in this period. He’s studied it thoroughly, and he recalls what the annals of history have dutifully recorded, a story about an unpopular tariff – a tax – that the people of South Carolina felt punished them and rewarded the states of the northeast.
So much like gun rights advocates in our state legislature, South Carolina takes a stand.
Busick explains, “What happens then is the state nullifies the law, says it’s null and void, with no effect in that state.”
It’s engineered by a well-known historical figure – John Calhoun. You might recognize his name, as an icon of states’ rights politics.
But another name from the history books puts a stop to nullification. President Andrew Jackson threatens to invade South Carolina to collect the tax.
As Busick explains, even states that supported a civil war – a dissolution of our country – found nullification distasteful, “Even southern states said, ‘We understand secession, but we don’t understand how you can refuse to obey a federal law and remain in the union.'”
Busick says even if the state legislature makes its stand and tries to nullify national gun laws – history tells us they will fail, “The federal government undoubtedly would challenge this, and in the end, we will almost certainly lose.”
Of course the cost of that loss could total in the millions in legal fees.
Busick notes a lengthy court battle seems certain if the state tries its own version of nullification. He says the Nullification Crisis of the 1830’s brought the country to the brink of civil war, but ended in legislative compromise on the tariff.