Brady Handgun Violence Prevention
Act provisions require the Attorney General to establish a
national system for instantly checking prospective handgun
CLEO temporarily perform related task
Also it commanded the "chief law
enforcement officer" (CLEO) of each local jurisdiction to
conduct such checks and perform related tasks on an interim
basis until the national system becomes operative.
CLEO, Printz, Challenged
Petitioners, the CLEOs for counties
in Montana and Arizona, filed separate actions challenging the
interim provisions' constitutionality.
District Count - Unconstitutional
In each case, the District Court
held that the background-check provision was unconstitutional,
but concluded that it was severable from the remainder of the
Act, effectively leaving a
voluntary background-check system in place.
Circuit - Reversed
The Ninth Circuit reversed, finding
none of the interim provisions unconstitutional
Court Agreed with the sheriffs (Unconstitutional).
The power of the
Federal Government would be augmented
immeasurably if it were able to impress into its service--and
at no cost to itself--the police officers of the 50 States.
The Brady Act
effectively transfers this
responsibility to thousands of CLEOs in the 50
States, who are left to implement the program without meaningful
Court Relying on New York
Concluded that the Brady Act was not
a proper method of implementing a delegated power.
Congress cannot commandeer that
State legislature and executive officials.
Court No policy involved
Nothing tells us what reason
An imprecise barrier against federal
intrusion upon State authority is not likely to be an effective
Congress Argues Does not diminish accountability
Requiring state officers to perform
discrete, ministerial tasks specified by Congress does not
violate the principle of New York because it does not diminish
the accountability of state or federal officials.
Court Congress would not have to raise taxes
State governments would absorb the
financial burden of implementing a federal regulatory program.
Members of Congress can take credit
for "solving" problems without having to ask their constituents
to pay for the solutions with higher federal taxes.
Court States are put in the position of taking blame
The States put in the position of
taking the blame for its burdensomeness and for its defects.
Court CLEO will be blamed for mistakes
The CLEO and not some federal
official who stands between the gun purchaser and immediate
possession of his gun.
The CLEO, not some federal official,
who will be blamed for any error (even one in the designated
federal database) that causes a purchaser to be mistakenly
Congress Argues Constitutionality should be determined by
The Constitutionality should be
determined by balancing the minimal and only temporary burden
upon state officers.
Court Principle of State Sovereignty
Balancing" analysis is
It is the very principle of
separate state sovereignty that such a
No comparative assessment of the various interests can
overcome that fundamental defect.
DISSENT [Justice Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer]
When Congress exercises the powers
delegated to it by the Constitution,
it may impose affirmative
obligations on executive and judicial officers of state and
local governments as well as ordinary citizens.
This conclusion is firmly supported
by the text of the Constitution, the early history of the
Nation, decisions of this Court, and a correct understanding of
the basic structure of the Federal Government.
Article of Confederation had power
to issues commands to the several sovereign states, but had
no authority over individuals.
Framers of the Constitution
empowered the federal government
by having authority to make demands
on individual citizens.
Hamilton's meaning was unambiguous;
the federal government was to have the power to demand that
local officials implement national policy programs.
Justice Stevens Relying on Garcia.
Congress sometimes had required
state officials to enforce nation law.
Senators are elected by citizens of
It is unrealistic that Congress will
ignore the sovereignty concerns of their constituents.
Justice Stevens In response to blame argument
Elected officials will make it clear
to their constituents who the source of the unpopular action is
Justice Stevens In response to safeguards
Seems more likely to damage than to
preserve the safeguards against tyranny provided by the
existence of vital state government.