January 28, 2013
A recent Lawyers.com article discussed proposed Congressional legislation to impose a federal ban on assault weapons. A number of local law enforcement officials have said they would not enforce any new legislation banning assault weapons because such a ban would be unconstitutional. Distinguished Professor Ruthann Robson weighed in on the issue of whether state officials can ignore federal law. Robson cited Printz v. United States, “decided by the Supreme Court in 1997, in which the Court declared unconstitutional a federal provision mandating state officials participate in the ‘background checks’ for gun owners required by federal law. The theory there was that state officials could not be ‘dragooned’ into enforcing federal law.” Robson adds, “On the other hand, it’s clear that state or local officials do not have the power to decide matters of constitutional interpretation.” Robson cites Cooper v. Aaron, also known as the “The Little Rock” case, “which reiterated that federal law is supreme over state and local law.”
Prof. Robson teaches in the areas of constitutional law, family law, feminist legal theory, and sexuality and the law. She is the author of many articles in such journals as New York Law School Journal of Human Rights, Albany Law Review, Women’s Rights Law Reporter, Hastings Law Journal, Australian Feminist Law Journal, and Yearbook of New Zealand Jurisprudence.