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Nullification: A Civil Rights Imperative

Updated: May 20

The past few years have seen a sharp and rapidly increasing political divide in America.  The polarization of the two main political parties has invaded virtually every aspect of life in the United States, with both sides claiming moral high ground.  In some facets the intrusion and regression of civil rights is bipartisan, others it is highly partisan.  Open discussion of states seceding has been a topic of both the Left (Calexit) and the Right (51st State Project), with national polling by Rasmussen and others showing a growing percentage of Americans holding the belief that an actual internal civil war could break out in our nation in the next few years. Many states are on the cusp of some rights being severely eroded, with dire consequences possible.  One of those – the right to keep and bear arms – is particularly situated to be a flashpoint despite being an affirmed, integral, part of the Bill of Rights of the United States of America.


A quarter century ago we witnessed a high tide of violent crime in America.  The urban wars over crack cocaine distribution by gangs fueled a significant portion of that violence and murder.  We still see that today, to a lesser extent.  At that time the number of states having significant concealed carry opportunity for its citizens was precisely one – Florida.  Critics derisively referred to it as the “Gunshine State”, and predicted “blood in the streets” as well as a “Gunfight at the OK Corral” mentality.  Similar predictions were made in Illinois five years ago when it became the 50th and last state to pass concealed carry legislation.  Objective analysis however, has shown concealed carry holders to be the most law abiding measured demographic of citizens, with arrests for forcible felonies even less than active duty law enforcement officers.  Illinois FOID (Firearm Owners ID) card holders are the most scrutinized individuals in that state.  They are subjected to approximately 360 automated background checks per year by the Illinois State Police Firearms Services Bureau.  The shrill accusations of impending doom have been refuted over time, with misuses of lawfully owned firearms a very rare occurrence, indeed.  Nationwide, violent crime, criminal homicide, and even accidental shooting deaths are at near historic lows, however, the perception of danger has not abated.  Data published from anti civil rights extremists routinely lump in suicides, accidental shootings, lawful self defense incidents, and even law enforcement defensive shootings to paint a blatantly false narrative of rampant "gun crime." Clearly there is a disconnect between the reality of criminal activity and the perceived threat - likely due to high profile mass shootings, suicides, and the attendant round the clock news coverage.


Largely as a result of the misperception and misplaced blame of violence on otherwise peaceable firearm owners, several jurisdictions are attempting to, or have passed severe restrictions on lawful firearm ownership. These include unconstitutional seizures of lawfully owned protected property – and has resulted in the death of a citizen of Maryland at the hands of police enforcing an ex parte “red flag” firearm law.  Many of these proposed and enacted statutes blatantly violate not only the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment, but also the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 10th, and 14th, plus like provisions of the various states’ constitutions.  


Illegal and unconstitutional “bans” of certain arms and accessories have produced a very consistent theme across the nation: civil disobedience.  Various attempts at arbitrary bans have resulted in non-compliance rates of 85% to 99.999%  in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Colorado, and Los Angeles, to name but a few.  Peaceful citizens are simply refusing to comply with unconstitutional legislation that unjustly places the blame for criminality on themselves.


The past two years witnessed an exponentially growing movement which began in Iroquois and Effingham Counties in Illinois - that of gun sanctuary resolutions and ballot referenda.  Nearly 70 Illinois counties  and 20 other parts of states have approved some form of official recognition of the opposition of their citizens to further incursions against their rights.  Of the 18 Illinois counties with a 2nd Amendment sanctuary referendum on their ballot in November, 2018, ALL 18 passed by wide margins, averaging nearly 80% of votes cast. A few counties were over 90%.  This represents a stark warning to any elected or appointed officials who attempt to pass additional legislation against lawful firearm owners, enforce unconstitutional laws, prosecute the same, empanel a jury, or try a case that would likely be very hostile to such outrages.  Many county sheriffs, local law enforcement officials, and prosecutors have already expressed their public support for Nullification as a form of civil disobedience, and many more have quietly related their non publicized refusal to go along with unconstitutional legislative acts.  Two Illinois state's attorneys: Bryan Kibler (R) Effingham County, and Brandon Zanotti (D) Williamson County, were the first in the nation to announce prosecutorial nullification of unjust firearms laws. Dozens of others have joined them.


Bryan Kibler (R) for Effingham County (pic left); Brandon Zanotti (D) for Williamson County (pic right).



Here is an excellent example of the public stance prosecutors can take:

https://www.effinghamdailynews.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/letter-to-the-editor-jasper-county-state-s-attorney-the/article_268f0cb8-d6d2-5779-a5e2-e051933142d2.html


The oaths taken by elected and appointed officials have too often become perfunctory ceremonies rather than solemn guides and expectations of their duties.  In some positions the oaths are to federal and state constitutions, as well as federal AND state law.  These are often in direct conflict.  Which to choose?  Simple: the civil liberties of the People.  History has cast a harsh light on the legislators, police, prosecutors, and judges of the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras when blatant crackdowns on otherwise peaceable citizens (although politically correct at the time) were enacted and enforced using violence with little recourse for their victims.  Had those entities tasked with forcing the abominations down the throats of Americans simply stood up and shouted a unified “NO!” we would not have had to suffer the turmoil of those periods in history, nor the justified moral outrage of their victims. One person who knew a few things on the topic stated:


"An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is even more so." 

~Ghandi~


Prosecutors, police, and judges are in a crucial position when it comes to upholding their oaths of office and protecting the People.  Their predecessors in the 1960s South almost universally failed in that regard.  Several law enforcement administrators and prosecutors have recently stated, “We will enforce all laws that the legislature passes and the Governor signs.”  In the cold light of history, would they enforce duly enacted laws requiring people of certain races to continue to sit at the back of the bus, theater balcony, or prohibit them from using “WHITES ONLY” lunch counters, restrooms, or water fountains?  Were those not duly enacted laws passed by their legislatures, signed by their governors, with arrests made by oath taking police officers, and tried by oath taking prosecutors in front of oath taking judges?  Were these not in violation of Constitutional, civil, natural, and human rights?  This is particularly distressing since prosecutors are taught to "Do justice, not merely gain convictions."  Even some law professors have scoffed at the notion of a concept that goes back as far as English Common Law, and is taught in virtually every law school in the country. Do they reject the concept as a matter of principle, or of misguided political allegiance?  

Judges themselves are not immune from the conflict, although many attempt to abdicate their involvement in the debate, claim that all other parts of the criminal justice system are subservient to those few in black robes, and who are increasingly political themselves. Thomas Jefferson himself warned against that perspective when he stated, 


“You seem . . . to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so . . . and their power [is] the more dangerous, as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots.” 


(Letter to William Jarvis, Sept. 28, 1820)

As a reminder: the abominations of the Jim Crow era, forced segregation, denial of voting rights to women and minorities - even slavery itself - were ALL at various points approved by the judiciary. 

As stated above, the non-compliance rate of citizens who are subjected to unconstitutional firearms legislation and ordinances averages well over 90%.  Supporting or enacting such atrocities means those who do so acknowledge virtually all their friends, neighbors, and family members who possess affected arms and components have a coming change in status: they will exercise civil disobedience, become felons according to laws that have been threatened by many political entities, and at some point resist efforts to oppress them.  Juries, consisting of peers of the accused are increasingly likely to exercise Nullification by acquitting their fellow citizens of unjust laws that violate their human rights.

  

History tells us that even though Colonists were angry at excessive taxation and lack of representation that many now also suffer, it was only when government agents moved out into the countryside to seize arms and munitions from otherwise peaceful people that the “…shot heard ‘round the world” was fired, and we were forever changed.   Some anti civil rights extremists and their sycophants seem determined to test the theory of whether history will repeat itself ... an obscenely dangerous game of brinkmanship, indeed.



Pics taken in Richmond, VA on 1-13-2020: photo credits to Ms. Pat Webb.


I urge all like minded public officials to join a bipartisan coalition opposing illegal and unconstitutional legislation, enforcement, prosecution, and rulings against its citizens.  A bold proclamation that any attacks on the fundamental civil rights of peaceful, Constitutionally protected firearms ownership and possession will not be tolerated is key. The opportunity to encourage a reassuring message to peaceable citizens - via Nullification - is immense, as well as a stern warning to would be tyrants that Americans will neither be ignored nor subjugated, and that our lawful, constitutionally protected property is neither up for seizure nor debate.  Let us work to achieve that in these tumultuous times.

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