"Of course, no one expects Congress to obliterate the states, at least in one fell swoop. If there is any danger, it lies in the tyranny of small decisions -- in the prospect that Congress will nibble away at state sovereignty, bit by bit, until someday essentially nothing is left but a gutted shell."[8]

Personal and state granted liberties were also debated as Department of Justice claimed that Brady Act was based on benign motives. Some naively assumed that this legislation was meant to reduce gun related crimes in the country but research proved that there had been no significant change in crime rate with this legislation. University of Maryland criminologist David McDowall concluded that 'waiting periods have no influence on either gun homicides or gun suicides.'[9] These studies and such findings further infuriated the state authorities as they could see federal government turning into a major threat for state laws and rights. Justice Brandeis sternly warned against such supposedly benign federal laws: " ... experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent. . . . The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."[10]

The problem between state rights/laws and federal laws has resulted from Congress' disregard for the Tenth Amendment and Bill of Rights. While dissent in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority recognized, "[t]he Tenth Amendment also is an essential part of the Bill of Rights" [11], federal government has usually viewed it as an inferior clause. This law grants states to govern its own people without interference from federal government. It is known as the doctrine of enumerated powers but sadly this doctrine is gradually losing its value. As Law Professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds of University of Tennessee explains:

"With the demise of the doctrine of enumerated powers as a restraint on federal power, the only protection remaining for the liberties of citizens not sheltered by powerful lobbying groups is that provided by the positive limitations on government embodied in the Bill of Rights. Those provisions were inserted by pessimists who did not believe -- rightly, as it turns out-- that the doctrine of enumerated powers would be enough to restrain the federal government over the long-term. There is no reason to believe, however, that the Bill of Rights itself will survive over the long-term if the rest of the plan is abandoned. As National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineers say, once you start relying on the backup systems, you are already in trouble. To take one current example, the pressure to ignore enumerated rights brought about by increased federal responsibilities can already be seen in the calls for 'sweeps' of federally funded public housing projects, sweeps that surely violate Fourth Amendment rights ... What rights will be next? A federal government with unlimited responsibilities is likely to demand unlimited power to discharge them and is unlikely to be restrained for long by the Bill of Rights. The Framers anticipated that. We should remember it." [12]

States laws, their exercise and implementation and the role of federal laws in this connection are some highly controversial topics which have often surfaced in legal and political debates. Federal laws are undoubtedly the most important source of regulation in the country still they must not be allowed to suppress the powers of state laws or rights. This is because any action pertaining to suppression of state rights directly violates the Tenth Amendment and the Republican form of government clause.


1. Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 222-23 n.48 (1962), quoting In re Duncan, 139 U.S. 449, 461 (1891).

2. Deborah Jones Merritt, The Guarantee Clause and State Autonomy: Federalism for a Third Century, 88 Colum. L. Rev. 1, 23 (1988)

3. Id. At 61 (quoting Brown v. EPA, 521 F.2d 827, 840 (9th Cir. 1975), vacated and remanded for consideration of mootness sub-nom EPA v. Brown, 431 U.S. 99 (1977))

4. U.S. Const. art.,I § 8, cl. 3.

5. 18 U.S.C.A. § 922(s)(2) (West 1993).

6. NRLB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 37 (1937).

7. New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 166 (1992).

8. Joseph Lipner, Imposing Federal Business on Officers of the States: What the Tenth Amendment Might Mean, 57 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 907, 913, quoting Laurence H. Tribe, American…