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Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 117 (1997) p.11Supp


commerce clause


County sheriff sought to enjoin enforcement of provisions of Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act imposing requirements on chief law enforcement officers (CLEO).


The United States District Court for the District of Montana held background check requirement to be unconstitutional. Another county sheriff brought separate action to declare Brady Act unconstitutional. The United States District Court for the District of Arizona found that background search requirement was unconstitutional. Parties appealed, and cases were consolidated. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. Certiorari was granted.


Whether certain interim provisions of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act commanding state and local law enforcement officers to conduct background checks on prospective handgun purchasers and to perform certain related tasks, violate the Constitution.


The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States' officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.


The Supreme Court, Justice Scalia, held that:
(1) obligation to conduct background checks on prospective handgun purchasers imposed unconstitutional obligation on state officers to execute federal laws;
(2) sheriffs were not in position to challenge Act's requirements that CLEOs destroy handgun-applicant statements and give would-be purchasers written statements of reasons for determining their ineligibility to receive handguns; and
(3) there were no plaintiffs before Court who could challenge provisions requiring firearms dealers to forward to CLEO notice of contents of handgun-applicant statement, and to wait five business days before consummating sale.


Three arguments are made:
1. historical record
2. structural argument (formalist view): we have sovern states, federal government should not be able to impress into service the policeofficers of the 50 states; seperations of powers, Federalism
3. ??


Justices O'Connor and Thomas filed concurring opinions.
Justice Stevens filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer joined.
Justice Souter filed a dissenting opinion.
Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Stevens joined.

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