Gun owner’s across America should be worried about the outcome of Detroit, Michigan’s bankruptcy filing. You might be asking, “What does the rise and fall of a major US industrial city have to do with the right to keep and bear arms in individual states?” In particular, in states where there is an independent constitutional provision ensuing the right to keep and bear arms?
Maybe nothing. Or everything.
At present, Congress co-occupies the field of firearms regulation with the States. 18 U.S.C. 927. And the United States Supreme Court has recently ruled a state or local branch of government cannot ban an entire class of non-military firearms preferred by citizens for defense—specifically, handguns because of the Second Amendment. District of Columbia v. Heller (SCOTUS, 2008) and McDonald v. City of Chicago (SCOTUS, 2010).
But what if Congress severely regulated all ordinary firearms (non-NFA) allowed in most states? The state constitutions would trump? Maybe not. Under Section 24 of the Michigan Constitution, the rights of the City’s pension holders are guaranteed. However, Detroit’s federal bankruptcy filing seeks to cut these pensions.
Ultimately, this could come down to whether a state constitutional provision trumps over the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, whereby federal law (bankruptcy law) is supreme over all state law. Thus, if the Supremacy Clause is used to allow these pension cuts, the exact same analysis could be used to enforce a sweeping federal gun control law—the types that are routinely called for as symptom relief after certain gun crimes or most any other natural or man-made crisis and disasters.
No matter what side of the gun debate you are on, if any, the Detroit bankruptcy filing could have profound impact on state sovierngty. Do states have any rights that cannot be overridden by the Supremacy Clause? Be aware and participate in this debate.
This blog post is written by attorney Bryan L. Ciyou, who practices in Indiana and consults and lectures on gun law throughout the United States.