I don’t carry a gun, nor do I live in the inner-city or out in a rural area, so firearms aren’t usually a part of my daily “scene” or concerns. Of course, the local “Shooters” store down the road reminds me that there are plenty of people in my neck of the woods that are packin’. And that’s just fine with me. Helps keep the crime rate down.

Colt Python, .357 Magnum

Colt Python, .357 Magnum

My point is that, while I believe strongly in the Second Amendment right for a U.S. citizen to “bear arms”, those gun rights issues don’t normally (feel like they) hit very close to home. They’re not usually very bright on my radar screen, if you will. But, I do read the occasional news item about gun ownership, conceal-carry laws, etc., and I just came across one that I decided to write about here. Of course, it’s not just about gun ownership….

It starts with the Firearms Freedom Act, originally introduced in Montana and passed on Apr. 15, 2009, but now being “cloned” and introduced in several other States throughout the nation. As of April 2010, resolutions have been introduced in the legislatures of 27 states. (Go here to find out the status of your State.) The legislation claims that certain firearms, parts, accessories, or ammunition, which are made and kept within a particular State are beyond the Constitutionally-granted powers of Congress to regulate under the “Interstate Commerce Clause” — which is usually abused by the political Left, anyway. (By the way, I think such items are required to be stamped or engraved with something that identifies them as “Montana Made”, for example.)

So, if I’m a Montana resident and I buy a pistol, rifle, rifle-scope, etc., that was manufactured in Montana, and I do not take it across state lines, the U.S. Federal government has no jurisdiction over its use or registration thereof. (Unless a Federal crime is committed with it, of course.) In other words, as long as I retain it in-state (or, intrastate), it isn’t an interstate matter, so Federal law and Federal regulation do not apply. This would include things like the federally-mandated NICS checks; Brady background checks; NFA taxes, bans and NFA databases — not to mention Federal “assault weapons” bans. You get the idea.

The basis for the law is threefold. Obviously, it appeals to the Second Amendment by reasserting the right to “keep and bear arms”. And, it points to the Ninth & Tenth Amendments, reaffirming that the Federal government has no authority in areas not specifically given it by the Constitution. Those rights remain with the people and the States. The original FFA (aka the “Montana Made” law) also refers to the Montana State constitution, which prevents the government from interfering with the Second Amendment rights of individual Montana citizens. But, the central point of contention is really that of State sovereignty, with a focus on intrastate vs. interstate commerce. Gun ownership/regulation is just the particular application being used. Talk about a hot-button issue!

Well, needless to say, the Big Government types and the gun-control advocates in Washington and elsewhere don’t like this one bit. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) has not been shy about making its displeasure known. In fact, it has sent letters to gun dealers in Montana and Tennessee, telling them that by following the FFA, they proceed at their own risk. An excerpt from the Tennessee letter firmly asserts that

because the Act conflicts with Federal firearms laws and regulations, Federal law supercedes the Act, and all provisions of the Gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act, and their corresponding regulations, continue to apply.”

They then go on to remind the recipients what those requirements are. The tone is quite civil and not explicitly threatening, but, reading between the lines, one can see that the Federal government does not recognize State sovereign gun laws and the BATFE will not hesitate to arrest anyone who sells a firearm without complying with Federal requirements. (I haven’t read of anyone risking a challenge, yet; and, no doubt it would be a long and expensive legal battle, too.)

I am certainly sympathetic to the idea of having a central, national database of gun owners. In theory, it could help law enforcement in their investigations and prosecutions. Unfortunately, almost all gun-related crimes are done by criminals, who are not likely to go through official channels to obtain a firearm. More to the point, the real danger comes when the government is no longer working in the best interests of the people and decides they are more easily controlled once they are disarmed. A nationwide database would certainly make this easier to accomplish. (Note: I’m not an alarmist on this issue. Not yet. But it is a concern.)

Bill of Rights

Bill of Rights

Regarding the State sovereignty issue, I believe the reasoning for the FFA legislation is sound and the States should not be forced to comply with all the relevant Federal laws & regulations. Some of them might have merit, though, and be worth considering implementing at a State level. But, if measures are taken to restrict one’s own State firearm industry within its borders, I don’t see how the Interstate Commerce Clause can logically apply.

As for Montana, Tennessee, and the rest, I say more power to them. If they have the time & money to push this sort of legislation and defend it in the Federal courts, that’s great. State sovereignty is a very important issue, as is every citizen’s right to arm and defend himself, his family, and his property against anyone (including the government) that would threaten their welfare or try to take it/them away unlawfully. On both counts, we need brave lawmakers, executives, lawyers, & judges to make sure such rights are not stolen, suddenly or subtly, by either the ignorant or the dangerous, and to reclaim those rights that have already been taken.

For more, check out these two posts:

Was Jesus a Sword Toting Conspiracy Theorist?

Commerce, Jurisdiction, and Firearms Freedom Acts

  1. James Pogue says:

    The Constitution was before the lawyers, legislatures, judges and POLITICAL HACKS. And does not need any of those men to ‘INTERPRET it.’
    The Constitution is the Rule of Law in our land. The Bill of Rights is not needy of anyone to ‘INTERPRET’ them either. Therefore, if find it amusing as to why these particular issues need to be redefined/INTERPRETED by some liberal judges/POLITICIAN.
    Isn’t this exactly the whole point and problem of the matter.

    WE have allowed our Constitution to be “INTEREPTED” far too long already.

    • sirrahc says:

      Hey, James! Thanks for stopping by and speaking up! It is frustrating, isn’t it?

      I have to partially disagree with you, though. There are a few places in the Constitution and subsequent Amendments that do read a little vague (e.g., Am. #9) or are unclear because of the way language has changed. This requires “interpretation”, but to figure out what the original writers meant and to apply it accordingly. NOT to decide it means something new that fits one’s own preferences/agenda, and NOT to grant rights that either were not there in the first place or have been otherwise accounted for.

  2. Rick says:

    The member of the Continental Congress who developed the Constitution created a document creating a federal system of sovereign states with a federal government to be a ‘servant’ of the several states in performing the duties that are in common interest of the states. They did not intend to develop an overbearing and controlling federal government. However, they were afraid it might develop into one. Therefore they added the Bill of Rights.

    Included in the Bill of [state’s] Rights, is the final one, the Tenth which reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    The Constitution does not give the federal government the right to control weapon or ammunition internally within a state. The government improperly abuses the commerce clause in this and in many other state sovereignty issues.

    The commerce clause: “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”. To regulate trade is inferred by strict constitutional constuctionists ensure fair and equitable treatment among the states.

  3. […] ATF Warns Gun Dealers &#1072b&#959&#965t “Montana M&#1072&#1281&#1077” Law « A Vie… […]

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by LD Jackson. LD Jackson said: More developments on the 2nd Amendment front. http://su.pr/2Vlv5t […]

  5. Dominique says:

    I totally agree! Thank you for this well written and thought out defense. Our government is abusing the commerce clause and using it in ways it was never intended for.

    Again, thank you!

    • sirrahc says:

      Nice to know my labors are appreciated, Dominique. So, thank YOU! Nice to see more of the “crew” from America’s Watchtower coming over for a visit. (Steve & LD are semi-regulars.) You’re all welcome!

  6. Steve Dennis says:

    Great article! As somone who considers himself a states rights advocate, I would support this legislation. As you mentioned, the interstate commerce clause is frequently violated in this country and the fact that a product does not go across state lines has not stopped the Supreme Court from ruling that a product shouldn’t be federally regulated. I forget the exact case, but there was a farmer who was growing a crop for his own personal use, but he was sued under the commerce clause and lost because the argument was that by growing his own food he was affecting commerce. Sorry for the lack of details.

    • sirrahc says:

      That story does sound familiar, but I couldn’t tell you where I read it or whether it was actual or hypothetical (but based on existing law).

  7. LD Jackson says:

    Great article, sirrahc. I think it is very important to remember that the rights of the states were indeed, very important to our founding fathers. That is exactly why they structured our entire government the way they did. We have seen a move in recent years to cut back on those rights and to centralize everything in Washington. I think that is a dangerous precedent.

    • sirrahc says:

      Oh, and thanks a lot for tweeting this post, LD, and the one about Arizona Immigration law. I get a very nice boost in traffic whenever you do that! My two highest days, so far.

      • LD Jackson says:

        Not a problem, sirrahc. Those were both great posts and they deserved the attention. Actually, most of the traffic probably came from StumbleUpon. It can really boost a site’s traffic.

  8. sirrahc says:

    Dangerous, indeed. I think part of the problem is that we often think of states in merely geographical terms, rather than as sovereign political entities. Sure, we know they have governments and budgets and such, but it is the USA as an entity dealing with international matters that takes precedence. We forget that, though “United”, each State is sovereign in its own right. The Federal elements are supposed to be limited and work for the good of the States, not usurp control from the States and the People.

  9. […] to bear arms, right-to-carry law, Second Amendment, swords trackback As a follow-up of sorts to my last post, I have a guest post from my friend, Jamie Davis, of “Durable Faith” […]

  10. Lance says:

    I really like this posting. I did, by the way, find it via the “Stumble-Upon” system.

    As for the statements regarding state sovereignty, we only have to look back to the middle of the nineteenth century to see when the states became subservient to the federal government. Contrary to the popular belief that the US Civil War was about slavery, it really was a fight over the concept of state sovereignty.

    While I am glad that we “won” in the sense that slavery was outlawed, I feel like the republic lost in the end. It was made completely clear that states would not be allowed to withdraw from the Union; and thus they do not have any actual sovereignty beyond what the federal government will allow.

    Unfortunately, the closest thing that you can find to what the founding fathers intended for our federal format is now found in the EU. Doesn’t that make you want to weep?

    • sirrahc says:

      Thanks a lot for reading a commenting, Lance. (And for letting me know how you “stumbled upon” the post. I’ve gotten a TON of views that way, but you’re the first of them to comment.)

      Yes, the Civil War was primarily about state sovereignty, with slavery “merely” being the catalyst. (Similar, in that way, to gun rights/control in the current debates.) Of course, the slavery issue became much more central later on.

      And, I share your ambivalence about the outcome, governmentally-speaking, of that war. (You should hear me argue with myself!)

      When the EU looks more like “us” than the U.S., that really is sad.

  11. Kevin says:

    While these state bills seem to be about guns they are more so about the 10th Amendment. If you read them they still give the states the ability to do everything the Federal government is already doing to gun ownership. This is not a free pass to chaos just a stand against the Federal government. Montana still gets to say who can and what can be made and who they can sell it to and how. Don’t expect a company to just start rolling made in Montana full-autos off their assembly lines. Though that would make me want to move there if they did :-)

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