United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 13 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 549 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

Home-grown wheat in this sense competes with wheat in commerce." 317 U. S., at 128.

Section 922(q) is a criminal statute that by its terms has nothing to do with "commerce" or any sort of economic enterprise, however broadly one might define those terms.3 Section 922(q) is not an essential part of a larger regulation of economic activity, in which the regulatory scheme could be undercut unless the intrastate activity were regulated. It cannot, therefore, be sustained under our cases upholding regulations of activities that arise out of or are connected with a commercial transaction, which viewed in the aggregate, substantially affects interstate commerce.

Second, 922(q) contains no jurisdictional element which would ensure, through case-by-case inquiry, that the firearm possession in question affects interstate commerce. For example, in United States v. Bass, 404 U. S. 336 (1971), the Court interpreted former 18 U. S. C. 1202(a), which made it

3 Under our federal system, the " 'States possess primary authority for defining and enforcing the criminal law.' " Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U. S. 619, 635 (1993) (quoting Engle v. Isaac, 456 U. S. 107, 128 (1982)); see also Screws v. United States, 325 U. S. 91, 109 (1945) (plurality opinion) ("Our national government is one of delegated powers alone. Under our federal system the administration of criminal justice rests with the States except as Congress, acting within the scope of those delegated powers, has created offenses against the United States"). When Congress criminalizes conduct already denounced as criminal by the States, it effects a " 'change in the sensitive relation between federal and state criminal jurisdiction.' " United States v. Enmons, 410 U. S. 396, 411-412 (1973) (quoting United States v. Bass, 404 U. S. 336, 349 (1971)). The Government acknowledges that 922(q) "displace[s] state policy choices in . . . that its prohibitions apply even in States that have chosen not to outlaw the conduct in question." Brief for United States 29, n. 18; see also Statement of President George Bush on Signing the Crime Control Act of 1990, 26 Weekly Comp. of Pres. Doc. 1944, 1945 (Nov. 29, 1990) ("Most egregiously, section [922(q)] inappropriately overrides legitimate State fire-arms laws with a new and unnecessary Federal law. The policies reflected in these provisions could legitimately be adopted by the States, but they should not be imposed upon the States by the Congress").


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