Printz v. United States

Key Facts—The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act commanded state and local law enforcement officers to conduct background checks on prospective handgun purchasers and perform some related tasks.

Issue—Can Congress compel state and local law enforcement to perform specific tasks pursuant to federal regulations?

Holding—No.

Result—Law partially stricken.

Reasoning—Historically, when Congress needed state assistance in enforcing a federal law, it never attempted to mandate compliance; instead, it requested support. If the states did not comply, Congress worked around the resultant logistical issues. Using the states as instruments of Congress is forbidden, because they have their own sovereignty. The Brady Act would transfer the Executive responsibility for execution of the laws to local authorities, and it is therefore unacceptable.

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