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Attorney: Proposed ban on fed gun control enforcement 'pointless'

By By Caleb James, Reporter
Published On: Mar 14 2013 12:38:28 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 14 2013 11:21:18 AM CDT

Caleb James reports.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

What happens if Idaho law enforcement agencies are forbidden to enforce federal gun control laws?  
    
On Monday the Idaho House of Representatives voted along party lines in favor of a bill calling for punishment against law enforcement agents in the state of Idaho who enforces proposed federal firearms laws.

One prominent member of the Idaho Falls legal community says at the end of the day the move puts Idaho police officers between a rock and a hard place -- forced to choose between their oath to uphold the Constitution and their promise to enforce state laws.

“The Idaho Legislature has essentially set us up for a complex conflicts-of-law problem,” said Idaho Falls attorney Laurie Gaffney.
 
Gaffney while a bill by the Idaho house prohibiting enforcement of federal gun control laws is largely symbolic. It could put the Gem State in a tricky position.

“There's a supremacy clause in the U.S. Constitution that says if there's a conflict between a state law and a federal law, that in general federal law prevails,” said Gaffney.
 
Gaffney said the law is like hoisting a Don't Tread On Me flag -- an assertion of Idaho's Wild West values.
    
But the cost of that symbolic act could put law enforcement officers in a legal cross-hair for the same officers who promise to "uphold the constitution, my community, and the agency I serve.”

“The real risk comes, I think, when you get right down to it, when you have multi-disciplinary task forces,” said Gaffney.

Gaffney said a law prohibiting Idaho officers from upholding federal law could create conflict that may cripple the work of drug task forces where local and federal agencies work together.
 
“I think it's pointless,” said Gaffney. “I think if we don't like the gun control laws we attack them directly.”
 
The law passed on Monday, said Gaffney, is far from direct.

“Do I want my three-month legislator to spend his time on this? No,” said Gaffney. “I'd like to see them addressing funding for mental illness and drug programs and other things.”

Over the phone on Monday afternoon Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, said state officials should not be responsible for enforcing federal law.

The bill is now on its way to the Idaho Senate. If it is approved, it may become state law.

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