I shared a couple posts about this in Google Reader, but I thought it warranted a full post because this is big. Montana just signed into law the Montana Firearms Freedom Act which has the following summary:
AN ACT EXEMPTING FROM FEDERAL REGULATION UNDER THE COMMERCE CLAUSE OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES A FIREARM, A FIREARM ACCESSORY, OR AMMUNITION MANUFACTURED AND RETAINED IN MONTANA; AND PROVIDING AN APPLICABILITY DATE.
If you aren’t too familiar with interstate commerce, I found this excellent analysis of the original purpose for the federal government’s power of regulating interstate commerce. The power to regulate was not meant to be on the actual items themselves, but the imposition of tariffs by states on each other and with foreign countries. If State A imports widgets from State B and State C, it would be harmful to state relations to allow State A to impose a tariff on the goods from State B and not on State C. State B could retaliate on State A and C with its own tariffs. It doesn’t matter what the widget is, it is the actual “commerce” and “trade” that needs to be regulated.
The federal government has developed lots of powers using interstate commerce as a justification. Let’s look at the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. In United States vs. Lopez, the government argued it could ban firearms in schools because possession of a firearm there would lead to violent crime which would cause damages, increase insurance rates and then spread to the greater economy there by affecting interstate commerce. The Supreme Court struck this down in 1995 because it gave the federal government nearly unlimited power to regulate anything that might eventually lead to violent crime. The powers of the federal government are enumerated in the Constitution and the court found that possession of a handgun was not a commercial activity or even remotely related to one.
So what’s all this have to do with Montana? The law Montana passed makes firearm regulations justified by interstate commerce moot. If the federal government wanted to impose a 50 cent tax on each round of ammunition, it would use interstate commerce as a justification because that ammunition could move over state lines. Remember, there is no enumerated power given to Congress that specifically gives it the power to regulate ammunition. The Montana law says that if the ammunition is manufactured, sold, possessed and used in Montana, then the federal government has absolutely zero power to regulate that ammunition.
This is big. Utah and Texas have similar laws going through their state legislatures. States are telling the federal government that they want them to go the hell away. This isn’t just about firearm laws either. The DEA has been prosecuting people here in California for marijuana violations even though the state okay’d medical marijuana over a decade ago. A similar law passed here could say that all marijuana grown, sold and used for medicinal purposes in California is exempt from federal law. This isn’t about what issues you agree or disagree with, this is all about state rights and fighting back against unenumerated powers held by the federal government.
I truly believe the founding fathers never intended the government to wield such far reaching powers and any movement back towards the idea of putting the federal government in a box and leaving everything outside that box up to the states is okay with me. It will be interesting to see what happens with these laws and how things go down in the Supreme Court when they’re eventually challenged. Something tells me the bureaucrats won’t cede their power quietly.