By Michael Brick
AUSTIN — Police officers could be charged with a crime for enforcing new federal gun control laws in Texas under a proposal by a lawmaker who acknowledges the measure likely would end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rep. Steve Toth, a newly elected Republican from The Woodlands, said his proposal would prevent officers from carrying out any future federal orders to confiscate assault rifles and ammunition magazines.
“There’s a federal law, there’s a 30-round magazine right in front of you – what do I do?” Toth said in an interview. The measure known as the Firearm Protection Act “answers that question in spades,” he said. It moved Tuesday to the House Committee on Federalism.
President Barack Obama has proposed federal laws banning such weapons, but no such laws currently exist.
Toth’s proposal would create a Class A misdemeanor for police officers enforcing any new federal gun regulations. It also would establish cause for the state attorney general to sue anyone who seeks to enforce new federal gun regulations. It is one of several states-rights measures being offered by conservative state lawmakers nationwide in response to federal gun control proposals.
Courts have long upheld the federal government’s right to enact new laws, which generally supersede state law. Asked how legal precedent for the supremacy of federal law would affect enforcement of his bill, Toth said he expects a legal challenge.
“It may end up in the Supreme Court,” he said.
Several recently elected lawmakers gathered at a news conference Tuesday with Toth and Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who successfully contested implementation of certain provisions of the Brady gun laws in the 1990s.
“The federal government is not our boss,” Mack said. “If there’s any place that that’s applicable and true, it’s the state of Texas.”
Referring to Greg Abbott, the attorney general who helped draft the bill, Mack added: “And we’ve got a great attorney.”