Undetectable Gun Act, Autopen, and Pocket Veto

December 10th, 2013

Derek Muller queries whether the White House’s signing of the renewal of the undetectable gun act by autopen, combined with the Congress not being in session, could result in a pocket veto, rendering the law a nullity. His analysis is based on Professor Terry Turnipseed’s article that the use of the autopen is not constitutionally valid. What happens to this bill, assuming it wasn’t properly signed?

The consequence, then, is that the bill is unsigned, and after 10 days (excluding Sundays), one of two things happen. If Congress is in session, the bill becomes law. If Congress is not in session, the bill is vetoed, known as a “pocket veto.”

In most cases, Professor Turnipseed notes, it means that the law is not in effect for 10 days, and it usually becomes law after that. Most of the time, the law simply has not taken effect, or it lapses until the end of the 10 days.

But Congress has indicated that it would adjourn December 20. Ten days (excepting Sundays) take us through the end of December 20. So after midnight, we arrive at December 21, and we see that Congress is not session. And that means that the law has been vetoed.

This, of course, assumes that someone challenges the law (perhaps after arrest), and that a court accepts the argument that the law was vetoed because the use of the autopen was unconstitutional.

File this away till someone is indicted under the law, and a defender moves to dismiss the charges.