Every time there is a nationally publicized crime some Federal politician stands ready to get tough and pass a law. In recent years, we have had The Juvenile Crime Control Act,
The Church Arson Prevention Act,
The Sex Crimes against Children Prevention Act and so forth leading the naive to wonder why Church arson wasn’t illegal before the act was passed.
Of course, arson has always been illegal and well prosecuted under state law. Federal law is not only unnecessary in many cases it is a fraud. Take the most recent example, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act passed this year. The act dramatically increases the penalties for aggravated sexual abuse (or an unsuccesful attempt at such abuse) to a mandatory 30 year prison sentence with no opportunity for parole. The penalties are draconian but here’s the kicker. The penalties only apply to Indians on reservations, citizens of Washington DC and those few offenders who might cross a state line in commission of their offense. No other citizens face anything like these kinds of penalties.
For more on the Theory of Federalism and an application to crime see my powerpoint discussion given last week to a group of Federal judges.