The state of Montana, which came up with the idea that the guns made, sold and kept inside its borders simply are exempt from federal regulations and made that its law, now is considering a new weapon that could be used to cancel much of the authority of federal agents over its residents.
A new legislative proposal would declare that the state’s local county sheriffs are the pre-eminent law enforcement authority in their jurisdictions, and federal agents such as those working for the Internal Revenue Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and others, would be required to get permission from them before they could take any action.
The proposal, Senate Bill 114, is called “An act regulating arrests, searches, and seizures by federal employees; providing that federal employees must obtain the county sheriff’s permission to arrest, search, and seize; providing exceptions; providing for prosecution of federal employees violating this act; rejecting federal laws purporting to give federal employees the authority of a county sheriff in this state; and providing an immediate effective date.”
Inside that mouthful of provisions is a requirement that federal agents work through and get permission from sheriffs before taking any action to arrest anyone, seize any object or search anywhere. And it includes a promise of consequences if that is not followed:
“An arrest, search, or seizure or attempted arrest, search, or seizure in violation of [section 2] is unlawful, and the persons involved must be prosecuted by the county attorney for kidnapping if an arrest or attempted arrest occurred, for trespass if a search or attempted search occurred, for theft if a seizure or attempted seizure occurred, and for any applicable homicide offense if loss of life occurred. The persons involved must also be charged with any other applicable criminal offense in Title 45,” the bill explains.
It’s been introduced by state Sen. Greg W. Hinkle, who is from Thompson Falls and represents the state’s District 7.
It’s been developed with the help of the same people who brought up the plan that Montana can, under the U.S. Constitution, exempt from federal regulation guns that are not in “interstate” commerce.
That plan caught on so well there already are seven other states that have adopted similar laws, and at least three more states, Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas, already have bills pending for this legislation session. Of course it’s being challenged in federal court, with a review pending now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But supporters say they ultimately want a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court itself.
At a website called Pro-gun leaders.org, which is run by Marbut, there’s an explanation of the plan.
“This ‘Sheriffs First’ bill would make it a state crime for a federal officer to arrest, search, or seize in the state (Montana in this example) without first getting the advanced, written permission of the elected county sheriff of the county in which the event is to take place. Locally elected sheriffs are accountable to the people and are supposed to be the chief law enforcement officer of the county, bar none. This bill puts teeth into the expectation that federal agents must operate with the approval of the sheriff, or not at all. It also gives the local sheriff tools necessary to protect the people of his county, and their constitutional rights. There are exceptions in the legislation for ‘hot pursuit,’ U.S. customs and border patrol, corrupt sheriffs, and more.”
Officials with the National Sheriffs Association told WND they were unfamiliar with the plan, nor was it being tracked by the National Conference of State Legislatures yet.
But that was the same way Montana’s Firearms Freedom Act got started, and it now is law in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Arizona, Alaska and Tennessee. Another 20 states considered their own plans last year but they were not adopted immediately. According to Marbut and the Tenth Amendment Center, South Carolina, Texas and Kentucky are the first states to have begun work on their plans for this session already.
There have been some interesting modifications as that concept has been studied by other states. When Wyoming adopted its Firearms Freedom Act, state lawmakers created a penalty of up to two years in prison and $2,000 in fines for any agent of the U.S. who “enforces or attempts to enforce” federal gun rules on a “personal firearm” in the state.
Marbut said Montana’s new proposal about sheriffs simply takes that idea and expands it to protect the rights of the state’s residents.
The law states its purposes are to ensure maximum cooperation between federal and local law enforcement, ensure that federal agents get the best local knowledge, and “to prevent misadventure affecting Montana citizens and their rights that results from lack of cooperation or communication between federal employees operating in Montana and local law enforcement.”
“A federal employee who is not designated by Montana law as a Montana peace officer may not make an arrest, search, or seizure in this state without the written permission of the sheriff or designee of the sheriff of the county in which the arrest, search, or seizure will occur,” the proposal states.
It provides exceptions for arrests that are on federal land or when a sheriff or associate is under investigation, requiring then that the federal agent obtain permission from the state attorney general.
The law also simply provides that, “pursuant to the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution,” any law “purporting to give federal employees the authority of a county sheriff in this state is not recognized by and is specifically rejected by this state and is declared to be invalid in this state.”
Marbut explained the process would be simple. A federal agent, for example, asking to arrest someone dealing drugs should get this response from the local sheriff: “Good work. Here’s my written permission.”
But he said a federal agent wanting to raid someone for making Montana firearms could be met with the sheriff’s warning that, “That’s protected activity under state law.”
Marbut said the law doesn’t just cover firearms, but virtually every interaction between federal agents and the state’s population.
It’s just the latest wave of challenges to the authority of the federal government, which has expanded over the years to even, in the case of Obamacare, contend that not purchasing anything is a form of interstate commerce that can be regulated by Congress.
For example, in Virginia, lawmakers are considering a type of Firearms Freedom Act, only it would cover all products and services in the state, not just firearms.
Then there is Texas, where lawmakers are looking over a proposal that would specify a penalty of jail time for anyone caught trying to enforce the Obamacare provisions in that state.
The battle also continues over the Firearms Freedom Act concept, with the appeal process under way over the law that would “test the power of Congress to regulate everything without limits under the narrow power given to Congress in the Constitution to ‘regulate commerce … among the states.’”
Supporters of Montana’s law are turning up the heat on the federal government in their fight to push Congress back into the box set up by the “enumerated powers” the U.S. Constitution allocates to Washington.