The state Senate on Monday overwhelmingly passed a nullification bill that would prohibit Kentucky from enforcing new federal gun control laws if they're enacted, despite concerns about the bill's constitutionality.
The vote was 34-3. Three of the Senate's 14 Democrats voted no, stating that the measure would be trumped by the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause.
Sen. Jared Carpenter, a Berea Republican, sponsored the bill. He said the Supremacy Clause applies only if Congress is acting in pursuit of its constitutionally authorized powers, which he said wouldn't apply to stricter gun measures.
"If I thought the bill would be symbolic, I would've written a resolution," Carpenter told the Associated Press. "I thought it needed more than that."
The one-page bill deems unenforceable federal bans on gun ownership and registration. It specifically mentions semiautomatic firearms and their magazines.
The bill applies to federal laws as well as federal rules, regulations and orders.
"A friend of mine said to me, `Would you be willing to give up a little bit to be safer?'" said Sen. Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, before he voted yes on the bill. "My answer to that is very simple. No I will not."
"I should not have to give up a single constitutional right that I have to be safer," he continued. "Because criminals choose to commit crimes. None of us in this room should have (their Second Amendment rights limited) because criminals commit crimes."
The idea behind Kentucky's bill isn't new. In 2009, Montana and Tennessee enacted legislation that said guns sold within state borders are not subject to federal regulations or taxes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Bills in other statehouses this year would go much further. The Salt Lake Tribune reported this month that more than 20 states are trying to pass bills similar to one in Utah that would give local police the authority to arrest federal agents who try to take local residents' guns.
The newspaper quoted the NCSL as saying that these types of nullification laws fail to hold up in the courts.
"This piece of legislation is meaningless," Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, said before her no vote. "Can we please rise above the temptation to pander to those who believe that something is happening in this nation that is not happening. No one is coming to get your guns in this state."