Too Much FedGov? Madison Has the Answer Many Are Already Using

Apr. 19, 2019
by Bob Adelmann

Without knowing it, Joe Thoele adopted James Madison’s solution to too much state government, and the movement he started, also without knowing it – called “The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement” – is exploding.

In Federalist #46, Madison saw the danger of the national government exceeding its constitutional limitations and provided the solution:

Should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand:

the disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; [and] the embarrassments created by legislative devices … would form … very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.

Madison’s solutions also work on the local and state level, as Thoele found out. A board member of Effington County, Illinois, Thoele just wanted to send a message to Springfield’s anti-gun politicians. Last April, he said: “I would just like to send a statement to Springfield that I don’t want them to be infringing on our Second Amendment rights as legal gun owners.”

And so he persuaded six of the other seven members of the board to craft and pass a resolution. It not only targeted a number of anti-gun proposals and laws emanating from Springfield, but also demanded that “the Illinois General Assembly cease further actions restricting the right of the people to keep and bear arms” and that the governor veto any future such bills passed by the state legislature.

Joe Thoele may safely be characterized as suffering from Madison’s “disquietude” over his state’s infringements. His resolution stated his county’s “refusal to cooperate” with Springfield. That resolution has elicited howls of protests from Democrats who know they can do nothing about enforcing its demands on a county that won’t cooperate. And with the help of other states (i.e., Washington, Oregon, Colorado, etc.) the momentum to nullify unconstitutional infringements continues to build across the land.

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Consider: 64 of Illinois’ 102 counties have now declared themselves to be “sanctuary counties” for law-abiding gun owners, while another 26 are entertaining such resolutions. Riding that wave, Effingham County passed a resolution on Monday banning the state’s FOID (firearm owner’s identification cards) because, according to board member David Campbell, “it’s unconstitutional to require someone to pay a fee for a constitutionally protected right.”

Counties in five other states – Washington, Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, and New York – have passed similar resolutions. More than half of Washington’s 39 counties have pledged not to enforce the state’s new gun restrictions. In Oregon, eight counties have passed Second Amendment Preservation Ordinances confirming the sheriff’s power to determine which of the state’s laws to enforce, or not to enforce.

In Colorado, resistance continues to build, with the focus on its new “red flag” law that directly poses a threat to gun ownership by its citizens. One sheriff, Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams, has promised to go to jail if necessary before he’ll impose it onto any of his citizens, saying “I’ll do that before I’ll violate somebody’s constitutional rights.” Half of Colorado’s 64 counties already officially oppose Denver’s newly minted law, which doesn’t become effective until January 2020.

In New Mexico, nearly every county sheriff opposed new infringements of the Second Amendment, and 24 of the state’s 33 counties have already passed sanctuary city ordinances.

In New York, 52 out of the state’s 62 counties officially oppose the state’s SAFE Act (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013).

Missouri is trying for the second time to become a “sanctuary state” now that the state has a Republican governor more amenable to such a move than the state’s former Democrat governor. Its “Second Amendment Protection Act” would nullify most federal gun-control legislation with language broad enough to include red flag laws and bump stock decrees from the ATF, but also the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968. The bill that is pending also removes any immunity an employee or official of the state might otherwise have from being sued for damages by a citizen whose rights were violated by him or her.

Practically speaking, the states will be hard-pressed to enforce their laws. Many of them can’t even pay all the bills due, much less make the required contributions to their state pension and health care plans. Their law-enforcement agencies already have their hands full keeping the peace in their big cities (think San Antonio, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc.).

If enough counties enact (and enforce) these resolutions, then states (like Missouri) will be encouraged to do the same thing. If enough states enact these de facto nullifications, then why can’t the United States itself become a “Second Amendment Sanctuary Country?”

The process has already begun, thanks to Madison and Thoele. 


An Ivy League graduate and former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at


Chicago Tribune: Second Amendment 'sanctuary county' movement expands as organizers take aim at new gun laws

The New American: Illinois Counties Declaring Themselves "Gun Sanctuaries" in Opposition to State's Anti-gun Measures

The New American: Washington Sheriffs Stand for Constitution, Against Gun Restrictions

Tenth Amendment Center: James Madison: Four Steps to Stop Federal Programs

Federalist #46

New York’s SAFE Act

Most Dangerous Cities? 13 Cities With Rising Crime Rates

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