Noncompliance with new gun laws follows historical precedent

By Amy Swearer | The Daily Signal

On Jan. 20, as Americans remembered civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr., an estimated 10,000 people peacefully rallied in Richmond, Virginia, to protest the recent introduction of highly contentious gun control bills into the state Legislature.

Motivated in part by the “Second Amendment Sanctuary” movement that has seen more than 100 Virginia counties and cities pass measures denouncing — and in some cases, preemptively refusing to enforce — constitutionally suspect gun laws, some Virginians at the rally began chants of “We will not comply.”

Many gun control advocates have denounced these chants (and the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement itself) as undemocratic and anti-American. While this reaction was predictable, voicing a collective refusal to comply with laws perceived as unconstitutional or unjust is a fundamental part of American democratic discourse.

RELATED: Pownal Selectboard votes to approve Second Amendment sanctuary resolution

Wikimedia Commons/Fibonacci Blue

Threatening noncompliance is not unique to modern gun owners, nor unique to modern American discourse. “We will not comply” is neither an undemocratic threat nor an un-American resolve.
It is a long-standing part of democratic discourse, and an utterly American promise to strive for compliance with a higher law.

In fact, the mantra “We will not comply” helped set the stage for America as it exists today.

In 1765, the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which imposed a tax on nearly every piece of paper used by the American colonists. The colonists considered this a direct tax on them without the approval of the colonial legislatures — a flagrant violation of longstanding legal precedent and an affront to their rights as Englishmen.

Threats of noncompliance and public protests so troubled Parliament that the act was repealed before ever being put into effect. Thus began nearly two decades of actual and threatened colonial noncompliance with British laws that increasingly threatened the rights and liberties of the colonists. This included widespread noncompliance with laws that severely curtailed the ability of colonists to keep and bear arms.

Americans routinely circumvented or ignored bans on the importation of firearms and powder, and eventually resorted to armed defensive action against British attempts to confiscate guns and powder stores from colonial communities.

RELATED: Cavendish among Vermont towns to vote on Second Amendment ‘sanctuary’ status

Noncompliance with federal laws mandating the return of escaped slaves was rampant throughout northern states prior to the Civil War. In 1850, the Vermont Legislature went so far as to pass a law effectively requiring state judicial and law enforcement officers to act in direct opposition to the federal Fugitive Slave Law.

Even in jurisdictions that did not act officially act to condone noncompliance, individual noncompliance with federal slave laws was nonetheless widespread. Moreover, a generally lax approach to local enforcement in the North raised the ire of Southern states, where calls abounded for the federal government to send in military units to ensure adequate enforcement.

Importantly, many abolitionists refused to keep their intentions quiet—they, too, were vocal about their refusal to comply with laws they considered both unconstitutional and morally unjust.

“We will not comply” was very much a general refrain of the now-beloved abolitionist movement.

Noncompliance permeated democratic discourse throughout the 20th century, as well. Some of the most revered figures of the civil rights era were actually brought to the national spotlight by acts of noncompliance.

Rosa Parks refused to comply with a city ordinance mandating segregated buses that would force her to the back of the bus. Hundreds refused to comply with state laws by engaging in sit-ins. King spent periods in jail for his repeated refusals to comply with court orders.

Of course, America’s history with noncompliance and civil disobedience has also been complicated. Not all acts of noncompliance are later held to be meritorious. Many times, one side’s appeal to a higher law is another side’s accusation that the rule of law has been betrayed.

Noncompliance with school integration orders resulted in sometimes-violent standoffs among local, state, and federal agencies, and history has not treated these acts of noncompliance kindly.

Noncompliance with alcohol laws during the Prohibition era helped foster the rise of gangster violence (though, interestingly enough, widespread noncompliance was one of the major underlying factors leading to Prohibition’s eventual repeal).

During the Vietnam War, an estimated tens of thousands of young draft-eligible men faced severe criticism and legal consequences for refusing to comply with what they perceived to be an unjust draft system that would send them to fight in an unjust war.

But the fact that history judges some acts of noncompliance more harshly than others does not negate the reality of history itself. It merely reminds us that threats of noncompliance should not be undertaken lightly. They should be based on well-reasoned and principled appeals that will withstand the judgment of our descendants.

Threatening noncompliance is not unique to modern gun owners, nor unique to modern American discourse.

“We will not comply” is neither an undemocratic threat nor an un-American resolve.

It is a long-standing part of democratic discourse, and an utterly American promise to strive for compliance with a higher law.

Originally published in the Washington Times.

Images courtesy of WIkimedia Commons/West Midlands Police and Wikimedia Commons/Fibonacci Blue

14 thoughts on “Noncompliance with new gun laws follows historical precedent

  1. Unconstitutional Official Acts
    16 Am Jur 2d, Sec 177 late 2d, Sec 256:
    The general misconception is that any statute passed by legislators bearing the appearance of law constitutes the law of the land. The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any statute, to be valid, must be In agreement. It is impossible for both the Constitution and a law violating it to be valid; one must prevail. This is succinctly stated as follows:

    The General rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law is in reality no law, but is wholly void, and ineffective for any purpose; since unconstitutionality dates from the time of it’s enactment and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it. An unconstitutional law, in legal contemplation, is as inoperative as if it had never been passed. Such a statute leaves the question that it purports to settle just as it would be had the statute not been enacted.

    Since an unconstitutional law is void, the general principles follow that it imposes no duties, confers no rights, creates no office, bestows no power or authority on anyone, affords no protection, and justifies no acts performed under it…..
    A void act cannot be legally consistent with a valid one. An unconstitutional law cannot operate to supersede any existing valid law. Indeed, insofar as a statute runs counter to the fundamental law of the lend, it is superseded thereby.
    No one Is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it.


  2. Just like the military has an obligation to NOT follow a unlawful order so should the civilian
    who’s inalienable right to “bear arms” that shall not be infringed upon..
    Just because the fascist leftist want to take them away isn’t a reason for passing illegal laws..
    Deaths from guns is far down at the bottom of the list of “things” that are causing death..
    Pales in comparison with Planed Parenthood….

    Fortunately 4 dems from VA. saw fit to vote with the Reps there to squash
    the midget bloomburgs attempt to infringe on the citizens 2nd amendment rights..

    • I just ran across the list of death causes for comparison:
      Abortion = 501,000
      Heart Disease = 282,000
      Cancer = 272,000
      Tobacco = 141,000
      Obesity = 141,000
      Medical errors = 115,000
      Stroke = 61,000
      Lower respitory, Accident, 65,000
      Hospital infection, Alcohol, Alzheimer, 45,000
      Diabetes 35,000, Influenza, 25,000
      Kidney failure, Blood infection,Drunk driving,Poisoning,15,000
      Drug abuse, 11,000, Prescription Drug abuse, 7,000
      MURDER BY GUNS = 5,000

      • Fatality Facts 2018 State by state (table), highway deaths. Vermont had 60
        I travel thru VA last November and they have road signs indicating the number of highway deaths, it was about 750. It wound up being 778 as stated.

        In 2019 Bloomberg News stated
        Traffic Deaths in U.S. Exceed 40,000 for Third Straight Year

        Including this info to your list. There are also more deaths than you mention for the medical fields, to the point it’s dangerous to go to the hospital. I don’t think the Veteran Hospitals are included, being government. I have data of their treatment of Vets, sad.

  3. “When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.” Thomas Jefferson

    The lawless totalitarian Marxist’s legislators may want to figure that in to the mix when they pass unConstitution laws, which are repugnant to the Constitutions and thus nullified by We The People.

  4. When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.
    I swore an oath to ‘uphold and defend the Constitution against ALL enemies, foreign & domestic’.
    I Will Not Comply – and no force in this State can make me.

  5. I believe almost every state in the union, is under some sort liberal Gun lunacy attack,
    and here in Vermont, we are getting a full barrage from our legislators in 2020.

    If you read any of the dozen anti-gun bills pending in the statehouse you can see
    that they are writing policy just to please an agenda ” bought & paid for ” no real facts
    just feel good examples that will not fix any of their fictitious problems ” Guns ” are not
    the issue, look at the facts especially in Vermont.

    Law-abiding citizens will eventually wake up, Vermont has over 150K gun owners and
    they are Constitutional bound and ” Will Not Comply ” too liberal lunacy.

    I guess Vermont’s Legislative ” mind trust ” has never heard the old adage ” It would be
    best to let sleeping dogs lie ” …………………….

    Wake up People, send these fools packing back to there home states just follow the money.

    • Well said and good article. This puts Baruth et al in their pl;ace. They don’t believe in “We the People”. Baruth & Co. isn’t going to control me. The anti-control people have begun to react, the sleeping giant awakes.

      • Baruch and company are socialist lemmings of the United nations, they are not democrats, they are not representatives of this country, they do not follow the law, the constitution, but the law so agenda 21.

        They need to be removed from office for going against their sworn oath.

        • Under the pains and penalties of perjury! They also have to sign a copy of the oath taken upon entering their time in office. I keep asking this question, who charges them with perjury? It is evident that many of our legislators have perjured their oath of office as did the governor. They have harmed the people and the constitution by creating unconstitutional laws and by granting legislative power to unelected boards and committees. Apparently, it is up to the voting public to remove these unlawful politicians. If there is another way, what is it? ‘TAKE BACK VERMONT’! Freedom and Unity no longer exists in Vermont!

          • When you have a spare few hours, Dano, look up and read some of the records of Vermont’s Council of Censors.

            They were an elected body which met every seven years to review actions of the state government and ensure their constitutionality.

            The 1834-1835 Council of Censors believed a Senate was needed to provide “proper checks and balances in the legislative department, to the end that hasty and improvident legislation might thereby be avoided.”

            In its Address to the People, the Council explained, “By such a division of legislative authority, a guard is interposed against the evil effects and dangers consequent upon the hasty and premature adoption of measures springing as they sometimes do, from passion, party influence, party intrigue, or local interests, which are often brought to bear with great force, and exert a powerful and dangerous sway in a single assembly.”

            They couldn’t foresee the evil that has taken control of our Statehouse – but I’m certain they’d approve of our non-compliance with the unconstitutional edicts emanating from it.

          • Frank, I will. The modern version of what you present is work supposedly done by the Legislative Council. They are supposed to verify that laws pass constitutional muster, however they are now shills for the totalitarians who dominate the Golden Dome also know as OZ. Except in Montpeculier there is nobody behind the curtain! The current collection of lawmakers are a farce pushed by out of state money for Vermont social engineering. 23 of Vermont’s 30 senators are from other states and similar numbers in the house. The Vermont State house has an infection and the only cure is to vote them out. Everyone should work to that goal. Thanks for the info!

Comments are closed.