Utah third state to exempt guns from federal regulations

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by Sharon Rondeau

Utah Governor Gary Herbert

(Mar. 11, 2010) — In another declaration of states’ rights, on February 26, 2010, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a gun rights bill which would exempt firearms manufactured and sold within the state from federal regulations.

The Utah State-made Firearms Protection Act, SB 11, was introduced on November 19, 2009, by Senator Margaret Dayton, R-Orem.  In a statement after the signing, Governor Herbert said, “There are times when the state needs to push back against continued encroachment from the federal government.”  He signed the bill even though he has been cautioned by legislative attorneys that litigation will most likely ensue and it could be deemed unconstitutional.

The Utah bill passed 56-17, with two absent or not voting.  Montana and Tennessee have passed similar legislation to exempt firearms manufactured and sold within their boundaries from federal regulations.

According to Firearms Freedom Act, “the FFA (Firearms Freedom Act) is primarily a Tenth Amendment challenge to the powers of Congress under the “commerce clause,” with firearms as the object…”

The state of Montana sued the federal government in a case filed October 1, 2009, the day its Firearms Freedom Act became effective.  Plaintiffs Montana Shooting Sports Association, Second Amendment Foundation, and Gary Marbut  brought the case against defendant Attorney General Eric Holder over his alleged “threat to enforce the NFA and/or the GCA and other federal laws and regulations through the prosecutions of civil actions and criminal indictments against Montana citizens who proceed in compliance with MFFA [Montana Firearms Freedom Act].”

On January 19, 2010, Holder filed a Motion to Dismiss, challenging the constitutionality of the Montana legislation “by arguing that Federal law and operation of the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution preempts the Montana Firearms Freedom Act.”  The plaintiffs have until April 12, 2010, to file a response to Holder’s request for dismissal of the case.

As of January 15, 2010, 22 states had introduced a version of the Firearms Freedom Act in their state legislatures, and another six had intentions of doing so upon the convening of their next legislative session.

The day after Utah’s bill was signed, Rep. Dick Harwood of Idaho introduced a similar bill for that state, H0589.  The Tenth Amendment Center is reporting that the Idaho House of Representatives passed the measure 52-17.  According to Rep. Harwood, “the intent is to force a Supreme Court case that backers hope will limit the scope of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

On March 4, the Oklahoma state Senate passed SB1685, which has similar provisions as the Utah bill.

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