*954 The Court concludes its review of the historical materials with a reference to the fact that our decision in INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 103 S.Ct. 2764, 77 L.Ed.2d 317 (1983), invalidated a large number of statutes enacted in the 1970's, implying that recent enactments by Congress that are similar to the Brady Act are not entitled to any presumption of validity. But in Chadha, unlike these cases, our decision rested on the Constitution's express bicameralism and presentment requirements, id., at 946, 103 S.Ct., at 2781-2782, not on judicial inferences drawn from a silent text and a historical record that surely favors the congressional understanding. Indeed, the majority's opinion consists almost entirely of arguments against the substantial evidence weighing in opposition to its view; the Court's ruling is strikingly lacking in affirmative support. Absent even a modicum **2394 of textual foundation for its judicially crafted constitutional rule, there should be a presumption that if the Framers had actually intended such a rule, at least one of them would have mentioned it. [FN15]
FN15. Indeed, despite the exhaustive character of the Court's response to this dissent, it has failed to find even an iota of evidence that any of the Framers of the Constitution or any Member of Congress who supported or opposed the statutes discussed in the text ever expressed doubt as to the power of Congress to impose federal responsibilities on local judges or police officers. Even plausible rebuttals of evidence consistently pointing in the other direction are no substitute for affirmative evidence. In short, a neutral historian would have to conclude that the Court's discussion of history does not even begin to establish a prima facie case.
The Court's "structural" arguments are not sufficient to rebut that presumption. The fact that the Framers intended to preserve the sovereignty of the several States simply does not speak to the question whether individual state employees may be required to perform federal obligations, such as registering young adults for the draft, 40 Stat. 80-81, creating state emergency response commissions designed to manage the release of hazardous substances, 42 U.S.C. § § 11001, 11003, collecting and reporting data on underground storage tanks that may pose an environmental hazard, § 6991a, and reporting traffic fatalities, 23 U.S.C. § 402(a), and missing children, 42 U.S.C. § 5779(a), to a federal agency. [FN16]
FN16. The majority's argument is particularly peculiar because these cases do not involve the enlistment of state officials at all, but only an effort to have federal policy implemented by officials of local government. Both Sheriffs Printz and Mack are county officials. Given that the Brady Act places its interim obligations on chief law enforcement officers (CLEO's), who are defined as "the chief of police, the sheriff, or an equivalent officer," 18 U.S.C. § 922(s)(8), it seems likely that most cases would similarly involve local government officials.
This Court has not had cause in its recent federalism jurisprudence to address the constitutional implications of enlisting nonstate officials for federal purposes. (We did pass briefly on the issue in a footnote in National League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833, 855, n. 20, 96 S.Ct. 2465, 2476, n. 20, 49 L.Ed.2d 245 (1976), but that case was overruled in its entirety by Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U.S. 528, 105 S.Ct. 1005, 83 L.Ed.2d 1016 (1985). The question was not called to our attention in Garcia itself.) It is therefore worth noting that the majority's decision is in considerable tension with our Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity cases. Those decisions were designed to "accor[d] the States the respect owed them as members of the federation." Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 146, 113 S.Ct. 684, 689, 121 L.Ed.2d 605 (1993). But despite the fact that "political subdivisions exist solely at the whim and behest of their State," Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corp. v. Feeney, 495 U.S. 299, 313, 110 S.Ct. 1868, 1877, 109 L.Ed.2d 264 (1990) (Brennan, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment), we have "consistently refused to construe the Amendment to afford protection to political subdivisions such as counties and municipalities." Lake Country Estates, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 440 U.S. 391, 401, 99 S.Ct. 1171, 1177, 59 L.Ed.2d 401 (1979); see also Hess v. Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation, 513 U.S. 30, 47, 115 S.Ct. 394, 404, 130 L.Ed.2d 245 (1994). Even if the protections that the majority describes as rooted in the Tenth Amendment ought to benefit state officials, it is difficult to reconcile the decision to extend these principles to local officials with our refusal to do so in the Eleventh Amendment context. If the federal judicial power may be exercised over local government officials, it is hard to see why they are not subject to the legislative power as well.
*956 As we explained in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U.S. 528, 105 S.Ct. 1005, 83 L.Ed.2d 1016 (1985): "[T]he principal means chosen by the Framers to ensure the role of the States in the federal system lies in the structure of the Federal Government itself. It is no novelty to observe that the composition of the Federal Government was designed in large part to protect the States from overreaching by Congress." Id., at 550-551, 105 S.Ct., at 1017. Given the fact that the Members of Congress are elected by the people of the several States, with each State receiving an equivalent number of Senators in order to ensure that even the smallest States have a powerful voice in the Legislature, it is quite unrealistic to assume that they will ignore the sovereignty concerns of their constituents. It is far more reasonable to presume that their decisions to impose modest burdens on state officials from time to time reflect a considered judgment that the people in each of the States will benefit therefrom.
**2395 Indeed, the presumption of validity that supports all congressional enactments [FN17] has added force with respect to policy *957 judgments concerning the impact of a federal statute upon the respective States. The majority points to nothing suggesting that the political safeguards of federalism identified in Garcia need be supplemented by a rule, grounded in neither constitutional history nor text, flatly prohibiting the National Government from enlisting state and local officials in the implementation of federal law.
FN17. "Whenever called upon to judge the constitutionality of an Act of Congress--'the gravest and most delicate duty that this Court is called upon to perform,' Blodgett v. Holden, 275 U.S. 142, 148 [48 S.Ct. 105, 107, 72 L.Ed. 206] (1927) (Holmes, J.)--the Court accords 'great weight to the decisions of Congress.' Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Democratic National Committee, 412 U.S. 94, 102 [93 S.Ct. 2080, 2086, 36 L.Ed.2d 772] (1973). The Congress is a coequal branch of Government whose Members take the same oath we do to uphold the Constitution of the United States. As Justice Frankfurter noted in Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee v.McGrath, 341 U.S. 123, 164 [71 S.Ct. 624, 644, 95 L.Ed. 817] (1951) (concurring opinion), we must have 'due regard to the fact that this Court is not exercising a primary judgment but is sitting in judgment upon those who also have taken the oath to observe the Constitution and who have the responsibility for carrying on government.' " Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U.S. 57, 64, 101 S.Ct. 2646, 2651, 69 L.Ed.2d 478 (1981).
Recent developments demonstrate that the political safeguards protecting Our Federalism are effective. The majority expresses special concern that were its rule not adopted the Federal Government would be able to avail itself of the services of state government officials "at no cost to itself." Ante, at 2378; see also ante, at 2382 (arguing that "Members of Congress can take credit for 'solving' problems without having to ask their constituents to pay for the solutions with higher federal taxes"). But this specific problem of federal actions that have the effect of imposing so-called "unfunded mandates" on the States has been identified and meaningfully addressed by Congress in recent legislation. [FN18] See Unfunded *958 Mandates Reform Act of 1995, Pub.L. 104-4, 109 Stat. 48.
FN18. The majority also makes the more general claim that requiring state officials to carry out federal policy causes States to "tak[e] the blame" for failed programs. Ante, at 2382. The Court cites no empirical authority to support the proposition, relying entirely on the speculations of a law review article. This concern is vastly overstated.
Unlike state legislators, local government executive officials routinely take action in response to a variety of sources of authority: local ordinance, state law, and federal law. It doubtless may therefore require some sophistication to discern under which authority an executive official is acting, just as it may not always be immediately obvious what legal source of authority underlies a judicial decision. In both cases, affected citizens must look past the official before them to find the true cause of their grievance. See FERC v. Mississippi, 456 U.S. 742, 785, 102 S.Ct. 2126, 2151, 72 L.Ed.2d 532 (1982) (O'CONNOR, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (legislators differ from judges because legislators have "the power to choose subjects for legislation"). But the majority's rule neither creates nor alters this basic truth.
The problem is of little real consequence in any event, because to the extent that a particular action proves politically unpopular, we may be confident that elected officials charged with implementing it will be quite clear to their constituents where the source of the misfortune lies. These cases demonstrate the point. Sheriffs Printz and Mack have made public statements, including their decisions to serve as plaintiffs in these actions, denouncing the Brady Act. See, e.g., Shaffer, Gun Suit Shoots Sheriff into Spotlight, Arizona Republic, July 5, 1994, p. B1; Downs, Most Gun Dealers Shrug off Proposal to Raise License Fee, Missoulian, Jan. 5, 1994. Indeed, Sheriff Mack has written a book discussing his views on the issue. See R. Mack & T. Walters, From My Cold Dead Fingers: Why America Needs Guns (1994). Moreover, we can be sure that CLEO's will inform disgruntled constituents who have been denied permission to purchase a handgun about the origins of the Brady Act requirements. The Court's suggestion that voters will be confused over who is to "blame" for the statute reflects a gross lack of confidence in the electorate that is at war with the basic assumptions underlying any democratic government.
The statute was designed "to end the imposition, in the absence of full consideration by Congress, of Federal mandates on State ... governments without adequate Federal funding, in a manner that may displace other essential State ... governmental priorities." 2 U.S.C. § 1501(2) (1994 ed., Supp. II). It functions, inter alia, by permitting Members of Congress to raise an objection by point of order to a pending bill that contains an "unfunded **2396 mandate," as defined by the statute, of over $50 million. [FN19] The mandate may not then be enacted unless the Members make an explicit decision to proceed anyway. See Recent Legislation, Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995, 109 Harv. L.Rev. 1469 (1996) (describing functioning of statute). Whatever the ultimate impact of the new legislation, its passage demonstrates that *959 un elected judges are better off leaving the protection of federalism to the political process in all but the most extraordinary circumstances. [FN20]
FN19. Unlike the majority's judicially crafted rule, the statute excludes from its coverage bills in certain subject areas, such as emergency matters, legislation prohibiting discrimination, and national security measures. See 2 U.S.C. § 1503 (1994 ed., Supp. II).
FN20. The initial signs are that the Act will play an important role in curbing the behavior about which the majority expresses concern. In the law's first year, the Congressional Budget Office identified only five bills containing unfunded mandates over the statutory threshold. Of these, one was not enacted into law, and three were modified to limit their effect on the States. The fifth, which was enacted, was scarcely a program of the sort described by the majority at all; it was a generally applicable increase in the minimum wage. See Congressional Budget Office, The Experience of the Congressional Budget Office During the First Year of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act 13-15 (Jan.1997).
Perversely, the majority's rule seems more likely to damage than to preserve the safeguards against tyranny provided by the existence of vital state governments. By limiting the ability of the Federal Government to enlist state officials in the implementation of its programs, the Court creates incentives for the National Government to aggrandize itself. In the name of State's rights, the majority would have the Federal Government create vast national bureaucracies to implement its policies. This is exactly the sort of thing that the early Federalists promised would not occur, in part as a result of the National Government's ability to rely on the magistracy of the States. See, e.g., The Federalist No. 36, at 234-235 (A. Hamilton); id., No. 45, at 318 (J. Madison). [FN21]
FN21. The Court raises the specter that the National Government seeks the authority "to impress into its service ... the police officers of the 50 States." Ante, at 2378. But it is difficult to see how state sovereignty and individual liberty are more seriously threatened by federal reliance on state police officers to fulfill this minimal request than by the aggrandizement of a national police force. The Court's alarmist hypothetical is no more persuasive than the likelihood that Congress would actually enact any such program.
With colorful hyperbole, the Court suggests that the unity in the Executive Branch of the Federal Government "would be shattered, and the power of the President would be subject *960 to reduction, if Congress could ... requir [e] state officers to execute its laws." Ante, at 2378. Putting to one side the obvious tension between the majority's claim that impressing state police officers will unduly tip the balance of power in favor of the federal sovereign and this suggestion that it will emasculate the Presidency, the Court's reasoning contradicts New York v. United States. [FN22]
FN22. Moreover, with respect to programs that directly enlist the local government officials, the majority's position rests on nothing more than a fanciful hypothetical. The enactment of statutes that merely involve the gathering of information, or the use of state officials on an interim basis, do not raise even arguable separation-of-powers concerns.
That decision squarely approved of cooperative federalism programs, designed at the national level but implemented principally by state governments. New York disapproved of a particular method of putting such programs into place, not the existence of federal programs implemented locally. See 505 U.S., at 166, 112 S.Ct., at 2423 ("Our cases have identified a variety of methods ... by which Congress may urge a State to adopt a legislative program consistent with federal interests"). Indeed, nothing in the majority's holding calls into question the three mechanisms for constructing such programs that New York expressly approved. Congress may require the States to implement its programs as a condition of federal spending, [FN23] in order to avoid the threat of **2397 unilateral federal action in the area, [FN24] or as a part of a program that affects States and private parties alike. [FN25] The majority's suggestion in response to this dissent that Congress' ability to create such programs is limited, ante, at 2378, n. 12, is belied by the importance and sweep of the federal statutes that meet this description, some of which we described in New York. See *961 505 U.S., at 167-168, 112 S.Ct., at 2424 (mentioning, inter alia, the Clean Water Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976).
FN23. See New York, 505 U.S., at 167, 112 S.Ct., at 2423-2424; see, e.g., South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203, 107 S.Ct. 2793, 97 L.Ed.2d 171 (1987); see also ante, at 2385 (O'CONNOR, J., concurring).
FN24. New York, 505 U.S., at 167, 112 S.Ct., at 2423-2424; see, e.g., Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Reclamation Assn., Inc., 452 U.S. 264, 101 S.Ct. 2352, 69 L.Ed.2d 1 (1981).
FN25. New York, 505 U.S., at 160, 112 S.Ct., at 2420; see, e.g., Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U.S. 528, 105 S.Ct. 1005, 83 L.Ed.2d 1016 (1985).
Nor is there force to the assumption undergirding the Court's entire opinion that if this trivial burden on state sovereignty is permissible, the entire structure of federalism will soon collapse. These cases do not involve any mandate to state legislatures to enact new rules. When legislative action, or even administrative rulemaking, is at issue, it may be appropriate for Congress either to pre-empt the State's lawmaking power and fashion the federal rule itself, or to respect the State's power to fashion its own rules. But these cases, unlike any precedent in which the Court has held that Congress exceeded its powers, merely involve the imposition of modest duties on individual officers. The Court seems to accept the fact that Congress could require private persons, such as hospital executives or school administrators, to provide arms merchants with relevant information about a prospective purchaser's fitness to own a weapon; indeed, the Court does not disturb the conclusion that flows directly from our prior holdings that the burden on police officers would be permissible if a similar burden were also imposed on private parties with access to relevant data. See New York, 505 U.S., at 160, 112 S.Ct., at 2420; Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U.S. 528, 105 S.Ct. 1005, 83 L.Ed.2d 1016 (1985). A structural problem that vanishes when the statute affects private individuals as well as public officials is not much of a structural problem.
Far more important than the concerns that the Court musters in support of its new rule is the fact that the Framers entrusted Congress with the task of creating a working structure of intergovernmental relationships around the framework that the Constitution authorized. Neither explicitly nor implicitly did the Framers issue any command that forbids Congress from imposing federal duties on private citizens or on local officials. As a general matter, Congress *962 has followed the sound policy of authorizing federal agencies and federal agents to administer federal programs. That general practice, however, does not negate the existence of power to rely on state officials in occasional situations in which such reliance is in the national interest. Rather, the occasional exceptions confirm the wisdom of Justice Holmes' reminder that "the machinery of government would not work if it were not allowed a little play in its joints." Bain Peanut Co. of Tex. v. Pinson, 282 U.S. 499, 501, 51 S.Ct. 228, 229, 75 L.Ed. 482 (1931).
Finally, the Court advises us that the "prior jurisprudence of this Court" is the most conclusive support for its position. Ante, at 2379. That "prior jurisprudence" is New York v. United States. [FN26] The case involved the validity of a federal statute that provided the States with three types of incentives to encourage them to dispose of radioactive wastes generated within their borders. The Court held that the first two sets of incentives were authorized by affirmative grants **2398 of power to Congress, and therefore "not inconsistent with the Tenth Amendment." 505 U.S., at 173, 174, 112 S.Ct., at 2427. That holding, of course, sheds no doubt on the validity of the Brady Act.
FN26. The majority also cites to FERC v. Mississippi, 456 U.S. 742, 102 S.Ct. 2126, 72 L.Ed.2d 532 (1982), and Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Reclamation Assn., Inc., 452 U.S. 264, 101 S.Ct. 2352, 69 L.Ed.2d 1 (1981). See ante, at 2379-2380. Neither case addressed the issue presented here. Hodel simply reserved the question. See 452 U.S., at 288, 101 S.Ct., at 2366. The Court's subsequent opinion in FERC did the same, see 456 U.S., at 764-765, 102 S.Ct., at 2140- 2141; and, both its holding and reasoning cut against the majority's view in these cases.
The third so-called "incentive" gave the States the option either of adopting regulations dictated by Congress or of taking title to and possession of the low level radioactive waste. The Court concluded that, because Congress had no power to compel the state governments to take title to the *963 waste, the "option" really amounted to a simple command to the States to enact and enforce a federal regulatory program. Id., at 176, 112 S.Ct., at 2428. The Court explained:
"A choice between two unconstitutionally coercive regulatory techniques is no choice at all. Either way, 'the Act commandeers the legislative processes of the States by directly compelling them to enact and enforce a federal regulatory program,' Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Reclamation Assn., Inc., supra, at 288 [101 S.Ct., at 2366], an outcome that has never been understood to lie within the authority conferred upon Congress by the Constitution." Ibid.
After noting that the "take title provision appears to be unique" because no other federal statute had offered "a state government no option other than that of implementing legislation enacted by Congress," the Court concluded that the provision was "inconsistent with the federal structure of our Government established by the Constitution." Id., at 177, 112 S.Ct., at 2429.
Our statements, taken in context, clearly did not decide the question presented here, whether state executive officials--as opposed to state legislators--may in appropriate circumstances be enlisted to implement federal policy. The "take title" provision at issue in New York was beyond Congress' authority to enact because it was "in principle ... no different than a congressionally compelled subsidy from state governments to radioactive waste producers," id., at 175, 112 S.Ct., at 2428, almost certainly a legislative Act.
The majority relies upon dictum in New York to the effect that "[t]he Federal Government may not compel the States to enact or administer a federal regulatory program." Id., at 188, 112 S.Ct., at 2435 (emphasis added); see ante, at 2383. But that language was wholly unnecessary to the decision of the case. It is, of course, beyond dispute that we are not bound by the dicta of our prior opinions. See, e.g., U.S. Bancorp Mortgage Co. v. Bonner Mall Partnership, 513 U.S. 18, 24, 115 S.Ct. 386, 391, 130 L.Ed.2d 233 (1994) (SCALIA, J.) ("invoking our customary refusal to be bound by dicta"). To *964 the extent that it has any substance at all, New York ' s administration language may have referred to the possibility that the State might have been able to take title to and devise an elaborate scheme for the management of the radioactive waste through purely executive policymaking. But despite the majority's effort to suggest that similar activities are required by the Brady Act, see ante, at 2380-2381, it is hard to characterize the minimal requirement that CLEO's perform background checks as one involving the exercise of substantial policymaking discretion on that essentially legislative scale. [FN27]
FN27. Indeed, this distinction is made in the New York opinion itself. In that case, the Court rejected the Government's argument that earlier decisions supported the proposition that "the Constitution does, in some circumstances, permit federal directives to state governments." New York, 505 U.S., at 178, 112 S.Ct., at 2429. But in doing so, it distinguished those cases on a ground that applies to the federal directive in the Brady Act:
"[A]ll involve congressional regulation of individuals, not congressional requirements that States regulate. ...
. . . . .
"[T]he cases relied upon by the United States hold only that federal law is enforceable in state courts and that federal courts may in proper circumstances order state officials to comply with federal law, propositions that by no means imply any authority on the part of Congress to mandate state regulation." Id., at 178-179, 112 S.Ct., at 2429-2430.
The Brady Act contains no command directed to a sovereign State or to a state legislature. It does not require any state entity to promulgate any federal rule. In these cases, the federal statute is not even being applied to any state official. See n. 16, supra. It is a "congressional regulation of individuals," New York, 505 U.S., at 178, 112 S.Ct., at 2430, including gun retailers and local police officials. Those officials, like the judges referred to in the New York opinion, are bound by the Supremacy Clause to comply with federal law. Thus if we accept the distinction identified in the New York opinion itself, that decision does not control the disposition of these cases.