Handguns from Freedom Arms in Wyoming
State lawmakers in Oklahoma say they will challenge Gov. Brad Henry’s veto of a “Firearms Freedom Act” that would exempt weapons made and sold in the state from federal regulations.
Oklahoma lawmakers recently made their state the eighth to adopt the concept, pioneered in Montana last year and the subject of a federal lawsuit there now.
But Henry issued a statement after his veto yesterday warning that “any state effort to selectively ignore federal laws will certainly draw a legal challenge.”
The governor said he consistently has supported plans that preserve and strengthen an individual’s constitutional right to bear arms. But the “Firearms Freedom Act,” he said, “does nothing to enhance Second Amendment protections, and its unintended consequences are more likely to produce benefits for criminals.”
State Sen. Randy Brogdon, who promoted the bill, told WND he plans to bring forward an effort to override the veto.
Brogdon, also a candidate for governor, told WND he will bring up the issue as soon as a current debate over a plan to exempt Oklahomans from the new federal health-care-reform law is completed.
“We’ve got overwhelming support on this,” he said.
Support from three-fourths of the members of each house will be needed for the override, but the effort already has earned approval in the 50-member Senate by a 39-3 vote and in the 100-member House by an 81-14 vote.
“Most citizens in Oklahoma, and the vast majority of legislators, appreciate our Second Amendment rights,” Brogdon said.
The real dispute, he said, is not just over the hardware, but over the concept that Congress, with the help of federal courts, has been overstepping its constitutional authority in recent years.
“This particular piece of legislation has strong implications for states’ rights in Oklahoma,” he said. “The Constitution is clear, the Second Amendment is very clear: you and I have the right to keep and bear arms.”
“What Congress has forgotten is that the people are the real balance of power.”
He said the message he wants Oklahoma to send, and already being sent by other states, is that federal coercion in matters of states’ rights no longer is the working norm.
“People in Oklahoma have said, ‘Enough is enough. We’re not going to put up with this bully,’” he said.
“We’re going to try to keep Congress at bay, within its constitutionally enumerated powers,” he said.
He said Henry was just plain wrong in his criticism.
“The governor claimed this bill would have given criminals ‘easy access’ to guns. That argument is absurd,” Brogdon said. “Oklahoma law addresses this issue – convicted felons cannot own guns in our state. The Oklahoma Firearms Freedom Act would not have changed that state law.”
WND has reported on the issue several times, including when Wyoming adopted a Firearms Freedom Act and attached a potential fine and jail term for any agent of the U.S. who “enforces or attempts to enforce” federal gun rules on a “personal firearm.”
The costs could be up to two years in prison and $2,000 in fines for an offender.
The plan originated in Montana and now is on the books in that state, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, Tennessee, Idaho and South Dakota. The plan never before has been targeted by an executive veto.
The suit seeks a declaration that the federal government needs to stay out of Montana’s handling of its own intrastate commerce.
Lawmakers there insist the courts should decide whether Congress has overstepped its authority in the dispute.
“Should Congress enact a law that appears to conflict with the guidance in the [Montana Firearms Freedom Act], the courts may then determine whether Congress has acted within the scope of its delegated powers as limited by later amendments,” an amicus brief on behalf of Montana legislators said. “The courts may then determine the extent to which Congress’ enactment has abrogated the state’s exercise of power within the same sphere.”
Gary Marbut, chief of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, said another two dozen states also are in various stages of considering such plans.
The brief, submitted by Bozeman, Mont., attorney Jennifer Bordy and Jeffrey Renz of the University of Montana School of Law on behalf of state legislators in Montana, said the law is a “truism.”
“It is the Montana legislature’s expression that the mere fact that a manufactured good is a firearm or a firearm accessory does not automatically subject it to federal regulation.”
The arguments are based on the Commerce Clause as well as the Second, Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
“The law … is intended to allow Montana citizens to engage within their state in constitutionally protected activity without burdensome federal oversight and regulation for their solely intrastate activities,” the brief argues.
“It is questionable whether Congress’ authority under its conditional spending power or its power to regulate interstate commerce extends to MFFA firearms,” the argument continues.
The federal supremacy clause, therefore, has no impact “because only laws made in pursuance of the Constitution constitute the supreme law of the land.”
According to the Firearms Freedom Act website, such laws are “primarily a Tenth Amendment challenge to the powers of Congress under the ‘commerce clause,’ with firearms as the object – it is a states’ rights exercise.”
When South Dakota’s law was signed by Gov. Mike Rounds, a commentator there said it addresses the “rights of states, which have been carelessly trampled by the federal government for decades.”
Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center said Washington likely is looking for a way out of the dispute.
“I think they’re going to let it ride, hoping some judge throws out the case,” he told WND earlier. “When they really start paying attention is when people actually start following the [state] firearms laws.”