Tenth Amendment: Commerce Clause
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
In 1995, the Court in United States v. Lopez1 struck down a statute prohibiting possession of a gun at or near a school, rejecting an argument that possession of firearms in school zones can be punished under the Commerce Clause because it impairs the functioning of the national economy. Acceptance of this rationale, the Court said, would eliminate “a[ny] distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local,” would convert Congress’s commerce power into “a general police power of the sort retained by the States,” and would undermine the “first principle” that the Federal Government is one of enumerated and limited powers.2 Application of the same principle led five years later to the Court’s decision in United States v. Morrison3 invalidating a provision of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that created a federal cause of action for victims of gender-motivated violence. Congress may not regulate “non-economic, violent criminal conduct based solely on that conduct’s aggregate effect on interstate commerce,” the Court concluded. “[W]e can think of no better example of the police power, which the Founders denied the National Government and reposed in the States, than the suppression of violent crime and vindication of its victims.” 4
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