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.
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.)
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: