PRINTZ v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
95-1478
Petitioner 
Printz
Respondent 
United States
Consolidation 
No. 95-1503
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the United States)
(on behalf of the Respondent)
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Facts of the Case 

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Brady Bill) required "local chief law enforcement officers" (CLEOs) to perform background-checks on prospective handgun purchasers, until such time as the Attorney General establishes a federal system for this purpose. County sheriffs Jay Printz and Richard Mack, separately challenged the constitutionality of this interim provision of the Brady Bill on behalf of CLEOs in Montana and Arizona respectively. In both cases District Courts found the background-checks unconstitutional, but ruled that since this requirement was severable from the rest of the Brady Bill a voluntary background-check system could remain. On appeal from the Ninth Circuit's ruling that the interim background-check provisions were constitutional, the Supreme Court granted certiorari and consolidated the two cases deciding this one along with Mack v. United States.

Question 

Using the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article I as justification, can Congress temporarily require state CLEOs to regulate handgun purchases by performing those duties called for by the Brady Bill's handgun applicant background-checks?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Printz, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 922

No. The Court constructed its opinion on the old principle that state legislatures are not subject to federal direction. The Court explained that while Congress may require the federal government to regulate commerce directly, in this case by performing background-checks on applicants for handgun ownership, the Necessary and Proper Clause does not empower it to compel state CLEOs to fulfill its federal tasks for it - even temporarily. The Court added that the Brady Bill could not require CLEOs to perform the related tasks of disposing of handgun-application forms or notifying certain applicants of the reasons for their refusal in writing, since the Brady Bill reserved such duties only for those CLEO's who voluntarily accepted them.

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PRINTZ v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 23 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_95_1478>.
PRINTZ v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_95_1478 (last visited October 23, 2014).
"PRINTZ v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 23, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_95_1478.