Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
A Democrat in the Oklahoma legislature apparently has convinced party colleagues that a state exemption from federal regulations for firearms that are made and kept in the state would be like “giving machine guns to wing nut militia sympathizers.”
The statement came from state Sen. Charlie Laster today when another state senator, Republican Randy Brogdon, sought support to override Democrat Gov. Brad Henry’s veto of a bill approved overwhelmingly by the lawmakers.
Laster’s comments came in a prepared statement circulated as the Senate’s 28-16 tally in favor of the override fell short of the necessary three-quarters vote.
Brogdon told WND the issue remains alive and could be the subject of another override vote. Or it could be addressed in another fashion, although supporters haven’t decided exactly what to do.
Handguns from Freedom Arms in Wyoming
The Senate originally approved the measure 39-3, with House approval on an 81-14 vote. Brogdon said Democrats have launched a campaign since then to protect the governor’s veto.
Under the headline “Fatally Flawed Gun Legislation,” Laster wrote, “There is great concern from a growing number of Oklahomans that this bill will be exploited by felons and extremists to jeopardize the public safety of our citizens.
“Just a few weeks ago the author of this bill made national news for remarks he made advocating the formation of a militia to protect Oklahomans from the federal government,” he wrote. “If this bill becomes law, it would be the equivalent of giving machine guns to wing nut militia sympathizers.”
He continued, “It puts the safety of Oklahoma men, women and children in danger. I believe the governor’s veto and our action to sustain his veto was the right thing to do, and most importantly the responsible thing to do for the safety of all Oklahomans.”
Oklahoma would have been the eighth state to take the action. States with similar provisions already on the books are Montana, where the movement started; Wyoming, South Dakota, Tennessee, Idaho, Utah and Arizona.
The plan never before had been targeted by a governor’s veto, and other states already are lining up with versions of the same plan: Alaska’s legislature has approved the plan, and the bill is in the process of being forwarded to the governor for a signature.
Brogdon said Democrats in Oklahoma “played politics” with the safety of citizens in the state.
They “protected the governor’s veto rather than protecting the citizens of the state of Oklahoma,” he said.
He said there are, among Democrats, those who truly support the Second Amendment, and he will contact those lawmakers to gain support for another veto override attempt.
Henry’s veto had warned “any state effort to selectively ignore federal laws will certainly draw a legal challenge.”
He charged that having an exemption for weapons made and kept in the state from federal rules “does nothing to enhance Second Amendment protections, and its unintended consequences are more likely to produce benefits for criminals.”
The real dispute, Brogdon 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 is 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 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’s enactment has abrogated the state’s execise of power within the same sphere.”
A legal 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’s authority under its conditional spending power or its power to regulate interstate commerce extends to MFFA firearms,” the argument continues.
The federal supremacy clause 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 state’s 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.”
“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.”