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Opposing federal gun control laws, Alaska tries nullification

After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, President Obama and other gun-control advocates have urged Congress to develop bipartisan gun-control legislation. In addition, the president signed 23 executive actions to help curb gun violence.

Lawmakers in some states have responded to the push for new regulations with their own statewide proposals. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo led the charge as the first governor since the Sandy Hook shooting to sign gun-control legislation into law. The legislation calls for a statewide gun registry and places restrictions on ammunition magazines.

Other states have moved in the opposite direction, with lawmakers crafting bills that seek to make federal gun-control laws unenforceable within the borders of their state.

The latest on the list? Alaska. On Monday, the state’s Republican-led House voted passed a bill that would exempt Alaskans from following federal gun laws. Federal agents who attempt to enforce them would be subject to felony charges.

If this sounds like nullification to you, that was exactly what the bill’s sponsor, Speaker Mike Chenault had in mind. In a January press conference, Chenault, a Republican, told a local reporter that individuals in his district were “looking at nullification” in response to President Obama's executive actions.

The Alaska law passed the House in a 31-5 vote. But there’s a good chance it won’t pass constitutional muster, given the fact that nullification became a thing of the past in 1833, when Andrew Jackson was in office.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that legislative attorney Kathleen Strasbaugh alerted Chenault to the fact that his proposed bill was “largely unconstitutional.”

Chenault is by no means out in the cold in looking for a way to repel the federal government on gun control. At least 15 states are on a similar track. Gary Marbut, a Montana gun lobbyist, proposed a “Sheriffs First” bill, which would give county sheriffs the authority to decide which federal laws can be enforced in their county. If a federal agent neglected to consult with the sheriff prior to arresting someone suspected of violating a federal law, that agent would be subject to arrest and charged with kidnapping. The bill was recently cleared by the state’s House Judiciary Committee.

In Wyoming, Republican State Rep. Kendall Kroeker proposed a bill that would make it a felony to enforce federal gun laws in his state. Republican State Rep. put forth something similar in his home state of Texas.

Check out the Hardball Sideshow above  for more on Alaska’s flashback to the era of nullification.