Juries sometimes do it, if they think enforcement of a law will result in an injustice. Merriam-Webster defines nullification as “the action of a state impeding or attempting to prevent the operation and enforcement within its territory of a law of the United States.”
And now, increasing numbers of sheriffs and others across the country are publicly saying they will engage in nullification if faced by federal gun or health-care laws they find unconstitutional.
Ignoring laws is rarely a good thing. We’d say never – but we’re reminded of Rosa Parks’ and other civil rights icons’ peaceful defiance of the immoral laws and customs of segregation.
An increasing number of folks are no less convinced that Washington is trampling on other civil rights.
Sheriffs in Idaho, Oregon and Texas have announced their intent not to go along with expected gun control laws. Other officials have said they won’t enforce the health-care law. A state representative in Tennessee wants to make it a crime to enforce gun or ammunition bans in that state.
And several hundred gathered at the South Carolina capitol recently for a “Nullify Obamacare” rally. They were promised efforts by several state officials to block “federal encroachment.”
There’s a proud tradition of states’ rights in South Carolina – exemplified not that long ago by the light bulb. When federal law began phasing out production of the incandescent light bulb, South Carolina lawmakers passed “The Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act” to allow for its production and sale within the state, which Washington can’t prevent.
But nullification has rarely seen this much favor since the Civil War, and may only gain steam if Washington continues down the path of trying to run everyone’s lives.
Washington may have no one but itself to blame for the rise of the nullification movement – particularly the Obama administration, which has set the standard for ignoring the law.
It was this administration, after all, that decided not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. Even though the “Dream Act” can’t pass Congress, Mr. Obama “enacted” it via executive order – announcing that his administration would not deport illegal aliens who came here as minors. There is no such exception in the law.
His administration also announced that marijuana crimes would not be a “priority” – again, picking and choosing which laws to enforce.
When it appeared the defense industry might have to issue layoff notices to workers because of impending “sequestration” cuts just before the November election, the Obama administration encouraged contractors to ignore the law that seemed to require the notices.
The Obama administration also tried to block enforcement of state anti-voter-fraud laws last year.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate has failed to pass a budget as required by law the past four years – and the Obama administration has announced it won’t have a federal budget ready by the statutory deadline.
We don’t endorse the ignoring of laws. But if there’s a growing sentiment of defiance toward enforcement of federal laws in the land, Washington can’t exactly throw stones.
It has perfected the art.