CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Thursday he plans to fight any new federal laws that ban assault weapons.
Congressional Democrats, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, unveiled legislation Thursday that targets 158 specific weapons in the wake of last month's school shootings in Newton, Conn.
"If a federal law is enacted that is similar to Senator Feinstein's legislation, the West Virginia Attorney General's office would actively participate in legal efforts to ensure that such law does not infringe upon the rights of West Virginians," Morrisey said in a statement. "These efforts may include a wide range of legal and educational actions."
Morrisey, a Republican who replaced longtime Attorney General Darrell McGraw on Jan. 14, has set up an "Office of Federalism" to challenge federal laws and policies that he believes have a "tenuous nexus to law or the U.S. and West Virginia constitutions."
Morrisey has hired a solicitor general -- Washington, D.C., lawyer Elbert Lin -- to head the new office. Lin starts work in West Virginia next month
On Thursday, Morrisey said federal restrictions on buying specific guns and rifles raises "serious constitutional concerns" under a 2008 Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of the District of Columbia's strict gun-control law.
"When talking about an issue as important as gun control and our Second Amendment rights, it's critical that West Virginians have all the facts about the proposals being put forth," Morrisey said. "As attorney general, one of my jobs is to serve as a voice to fight crime, but I must also ensure that any actions taken by the federal government comport with both the West Virginia and United States constitutions."
Morrisey said he's also reviewing President Obama's executive actions on gun control. Obama signed 23 directives on Jan. 16.
Morissey said only four of Obama's executive measures have been implemented -- and those simply require federal officials to enforce existing laws.
Morrisey questioned one of Obama's executive actions requiring the federal Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence. Morrisey said he wants more details.
"I want to make sure that the agency does not violate its statutory prohibition on using federal funding to advocate or promote gun control," said Morrisey. "We must ensure that basic research is not colored by politics, and that federal statutes are not ignored."
Morrisey also wants details about an Obama executive action that addresses mental health services. Morrisey said "new mental health care requirements on states" could violate the U.S. Constitution's spending clause. He said West Virginia and other states shouldn't be "coerced" into funding such programs.