OCTOBER TERM, 1996
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit
No. 95-1478. Argued December 3, 1996—Decided June 27, 1997*
Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act provisions require the Attorney
General to establish a national system for instantly checking prospective handgun purchasers' backgrounds, note following 18 U. S. C. § 922, and command the "chief law enforcement officer" (CLEO) of each local jurisdiction to conduct such checks and perform related tasks on an interim basis until the national system becomes operative, § 922(s). Petitioners, the CLEOs for counties in Montana and Arizona, filed separate actions challenging the interim provisions' constitutionality. In each case, the District Court held that the background-check provision was unconstitutional, but concluded that it was severable from the remainder of the Act, effectively leaving a voluntary background-check system in place. The Ninth Circuit reversed, finding none of the interim provisions unconstitutional.
Held: 1. The Brady Act's interim provision commanding CLEOs to conduct background checks, § 922(s)(2), is unconstitutional. Extinguished with it is the duty implicit in the background-check requirement that the CLEO accept completed handgun-applicant statements (Brady Forms) from firearms dealers, §§ 922(s)(1)(A)(i)(III) and (IV). Pp. 904-933. (a) Because there is no constitutional text speaking to the precise question whether congressional action compelling state officers to execute federal laws is unconstitutional, the answer to the CLEOs' challenge must be sought in historical understanding and practice, in the Constitution's structure, and in this Court's jurisprudence. Pp. 904-905. (b) Relevant constitutional practice tends to negate the existence of the congressional power asserted here, but is not conclusive. Enactments of the early Congresses seem to contain no evidence of an assumption that the Federal Government may command the States' executive power in the absence of a particularized constitutional authorization. The early enactments establish, at most, that the Constitution
*Together with No. 95-1503, Mack v. United States, also on certiorari to the same court.Page: Index 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Next
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