Thursday, July 23, 2009

Who Loves States' Rights?

Yesterday, the Senate defeated a proposed law that would have required states to allow people to carry concealed weapons if they have a valid weapons permit from some other state.

Naturally, Republicans, who believe in states' rights, were against this proposal. Because they're such strong supporters of federalism, Republicans would, of course, want to protect each state's right to have its own gun requirements. If, for example, one state requires a strict safety training course before issuing a gun permit, it shouldn't be required to recognize a permit from some other state that doesn't, they would say. And, of course, if states want to recognize other state's permits on some kind of reciprocal basis, they don't need Congress's permission to do it. So no need for federal action, according to the Republicans.

Oh, wait. Actually, all but two Republican voted for this measure. It was Democrats who defeated it.

A persistent them in the federalism debates is hypocrisy. Republicans don't really believe in state's rights. They just believe in laws they like. If they can get the federal government to pass those laws nationwide -- on securities litigation, tort reform, gun licensing, or whatever -- they're happy to do it, and states' rights be damned. But when it looks like the federal government might mandate something they don't like, states' rights are sacred.

I have to admit, though, that the Democrats aren't really all that much better on this issue. They're somewhat more consistent but they're not above touting states' rights when it suits them, either.

The bottom line is that neither party has a real commitment to principles of federalism, either way. They're just something that's convenient to bring up, sometimes, and to ignore, other times.

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