LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday vetoed legislation that would prohibit local police from enforcing federal gun laws, saying the measure would jeopardize law enforcement and the public.
The Republican governor rejected the measure sent him by the majority-GOP Legislature that would have imposed criminal fines on state and local officers for assisting with enforcing federal firearms restrictions that the bill’s backers say infringe on the Second Amendment.
"Yeah I'm a little disappointed, I really am," said the bill's co-sponsor Senator Gary Stubblefield. "I think the governor may be out of touch with his base a little bit on this one."
The Legislature could still enact the bill by overriding Hutchinson’s veto through a simple majority vote. Stubblefield says that's expected to take place Monday, April 26, and he's confident it will get the votes needed.
“The partnership between state and federal law enforcement officers is essential for the safety of Arkansas citizens,” Hutchinson wrote in a letter to legislative leaders. “This bill will break that partnership and put the safety of Arkansans at risk.”
Lawmakers in more than a dozen states have introduced similar bills this year seeking to nullify federal gun laws. Arizona earlier this month enacted a nullification measure similar to the one Hutchinson vetoed. And several states passed nullification laws under then-President Barack Obama, but judges have found them unconstitutional.
"The federal government will always use money as a threat to states to withhold money from the states, to impose their will on the states. I just think it's time that states stand up and say enough is enough," said Stubblefield. "We're still a free country, and we're still a sovereign state."
Hutchinson, a former federal prosecutor and Homeland Security official, said the bill would jeopardize hundreds of federal criminal cases and could allow offenders to sue Arkansas law enforcement for assisting federal officers.
“I will continue to push back against federal overreach and regulation, but criminalizing cooperation with the federal government is not the solution,” he wrote.
The veto is Hutchinson’s latest rebuke of legislative Republicans, who have sent him a series of “culture wars” measures. The governor earlier this month vetoed legislation banning gender confirming treatments for transgender youth, but lawmakers easily overrode him the next day and enacted the ban.