The Expanding Federal Police Power
• reject all new proposals to make existing state crimes federal crimes; • repeal all federal criminal laws that address conduct that takes place solely in one state, unless the conduct involves uniquely federal concerns, such as destruction of federal property; and • adopt the proposal of the congressionally created Commission on Advancement of Federal Law Enforcement for five-year sunset reviews of all new and existing federal criminal laws.
Nothing in the Constitution gives the federal government authority over ordinary crimes. In America, crime fighting is the responsibility of state and local government. But despite the lack of constitutional authorization, federal policymakers continually try to involve themselves in crime fighting.
In recent years, the debate has been framed in terms of whether the president or Congress can take “credit” for the reduced rate of crime. In June 1998, for example, House Majority Leader Dick Armey argued that the “Republican-led crackdown on violent criminals … is the real reason for recent gains in public safety.” To support his claim, Armey touted a long list of “legislative victories,” which included the Juvenile Crime Control Act, the Church Arson Prevention Act, and the Sex Crimes against Children Prevention Act. Anyone unfamiliar with the Constitution would probably wonder why it took more than 200 years for Congress to enact those laws.
Every few months a heinous crime committed against a racial minority, or against a gay man or lesbian, spawns demands for a federal “hate crime” law. Those calls ignore the fact that homicide and other violent crimes are already illegal under state law, and are prosecuted vigorously.