The conservative lawmaker from southwestern Pennsylvania sponsoring a bill designed
to nullify any potential new federal gun control laws is firing back at a legislator from the other corner of the state, after the Philadelphia senator circulated a letter taking issue with the nullification proposal.
In January, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Butler County Republican, sponsored House Bill 357, a reference to the .357 magnum revolver, which would make it illegal for state authorities to enforce any new firearm prohibitions that may come out of Washington.
The bill, which was previously reported by the Pennsylvania Record, is modeled after similar legislation pending in states such as Texas and Wyoming.
Metcalfe considers himself to be one of the staunchest supporters of gun rights in the commonwealth.
Metcalfe’s office issued a press release this week condemning as “nonsense” the recent letter sent to all members of the General Assembly by State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, a Philadelphia Democrat representing the 8th Senatorial District.
In his May 13 correspondence, Williams wrote that he is concerned about the “rising, and disturbing, national cognitive capture of nullification, evidenced locally in House Bill 357.
“This bill, like its origin, is based on severely flawed ideas and deserves immediate repudiation, if not condemnation,” Williams wrote.
Williams, a Philadelphia native who notes the importance of his city in the annals of American history, nevertheless said while Pennsylvania may be a commonwealth, “we are no longer governed by Articles of Confederation,” calling it “ludicrous” to advance legislation “that seeks to erode our allegiance to our nation and its operation.”
In his response, Metcalfe, who chairs the House Republican Majority State Government Committee, stated that both his and Williams’ positions as state legislators “uniquely situates us to enact policies that strive to balance the scales of the enumerated powers established within both [the state and federal] Constitutions.”
“America’s history proves that the states created the federal government and the United States Constitution; not the other way around,” Metcalfe writes. “Therefore, as state legislators, we have the responsibility to hold our federal government accountable by fully exerting our 10th Amendment rights whenever necessary.”
While Metcalfe references the 10th Amendment in his argument in favor of the controversial subject of nullification, Williams talks about the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says federal law trumps state law.
“When the socially disgruntled of the past have promoted ‘nullification’ as a viable means of refuting and flouting the law of the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, the final arbiter of constitutionality, has soundly rejected time and again this assertion,” Williams wrote. “In fact, since the 1850s, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that states cannot criminalize federal law and authority.”
Williams wrote that regardless of one’s stance on the ongoing gun control debate, “we cannot let emotion override us and lead us down a path of irrationality.”
In response, Metcalfe writes that the “socially disgruntled” who Williams references in his letter “includes many of America’s great leaders” who helped to establish the country.
Metcalfe then references Article 1, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which gives citizens the right to keep and bear arms.
The commonwealth’s constitution, Metcalfe previously stated when first unveiling his proposal, “makes it crystal clear that no level of government, especially the federal government, has any authority whatsoever to impose senseless restrictions on law-abiding firearms owners, or worse, to confiscate legally-owned firearms.”
Williams represents a city that has been steeped in gun control controversy.
Citing a need to cut down on gun violence, elected Philadelphia officials have time and again attempted to enact gun control laws at the local level, even through the city is prohibited under state law from enacting measures stricter than those passed by the state.
Some of the local ordinances have led to litigation, and the courts have more often than not sided with the plaintiffs, agreeing that Philadelphia is preempted by the state’s Uniform Firearms Act.
The city recently passed what gun rights proponents and attorneys have called an illegal and unenforceable ordinance banning guns from public spaces like parks and recreation centers, despite the fact that those locales are not prohibited places under state law.
Gun rights supporters have scheduled a rally for this coming Saturday in downtown Philadelphia to protest the controversial measure.