Balance of Power

  • Competency 3: Document philosophical underpinnings and public policy influences associated with U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
  • Competency 5: Communicate effectively in writing.


Line-drawing associated with the balance between federal and state power is the source of debate. The debate centers on how the Tenth Amendment is interpreted. Let’s explore the line-drawing using handgun ownership as a point of focus.

Printz v. United States (1997) ruled that provisions of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1993), requiring local law enforcement to perform background checks on applicants for handgun ownership, was unconstitutional as a violation of state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment. If you were a federal law enforcement leader and knew that failure of local law enforcement to enforce this rule would undermine any attempt to reduce gun violence such as school shootings, how would you convince a Tenth Amendment states’ rights advocate? How would you account for public policy in your argument? What case law would you use to support your approach?

Discussion Objectives

The competencies addressed in this discussion are supported by discussion objectives.

  • Competency 3: Document philosophical underpinnings and public policy influences associated with U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
    • Describe public policy influences on Tenth Amendment interpretation based on the scenario.
    • Use case law to support positions on Tenth Amendment interpretation based on the scenario.
  • Competency 5: Communicate effectively in writing.

Response Guidelines

Respond to the posts of two peers. Explain how your opinions are similar or different from your peers and why. Interact about the different arguments to convince the states’ rights advocate. Discuss the different cases relied upon, the different approaches taken and the different public policy perspectives. Do you share the same conclusions as other learners? Why or why not? Did the positions of learners impact your positions on these areas? How?


  • CJ Discussion Participation Scoring Guide.
  • Nexis Uni Library Guide.
  • Criminal Justice Undergraduate Research Guide.

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