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Our federal government was intended to be one of enumerated powers granted by the states; as such, it was empowered to do only a relative handful of things, and those things were understood to be ones that the states were incapable of doing effectively on their own. Obviously, practice has not always followed theory, but it’s one of the things that’s made our country unusual, diverse in the best sense of the phrase, and responsive to its citizens at the most local level. You might even say that it’s part of what made America great.
If there’s one thing state governments have generally been good at, and that the federal government has generally stayed away from, it’s been in murder prosecutions. Oh, sure, there are exceptions for organized crime and a handful of other things — some more legitimate than others — but the presumption had always been that local crimes are handled by local authorities. But with an increasingly national media and an ever-aggressive federal government, there’s been a trend lately where the feds jump at any opportunity to prosecute high-profile crimes. We saw it in the Boston Marathon Bombing case a few years ago; we saw it applied with even greater absurdity last year after Dylann Roof murdered nine church-goers in Charleston, SC; and — if Rep. Ken Buck and Senator Jeff Sessions get their way, we’ll see it again whenever a police officer is murdered.
As Ilya Somin argues on the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy, the Blue Lives Matter Act — which makes it a federal hate crime “to knowingly causes bodily injury to any person … because of the actual or perceived status of the person as a police officer” — is foolish, unnecessary, and unconstitutional (other than that, though, it’s great). State and local authorities are not only perfectly capable of prosecuting those who attack law enforcement officers, they’re already highly incentivized to do so. Indeed, it’s probably the one thing you can rely on any local authority to do, even the most virulently anti-cop. As Somin puts it: