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WASHINGTON – A state lawmaker in Montana is proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution to deal with the proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would require Americans to register their guns and, critics say, would lead to confiscation.
Feinstein’s idea has been labeled “treason” on a White House petition site and has earned the ire of Rep. Jerry O’Neil, R-Columbia Falls. O’Neil told WND he would like to see changes made to protect state’s rights and rights protected by the Second Amendment.
He said he’s starting to push for the state of Montana to adopt two new constitutional amendments to protect firearm ownership and national sovereignty.
“I am asking for the Montana legislature to request an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to amend the Commerce Clause,” he said.
He said that in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution the word “among” would be replaced with “between” so that it reads, “Congress shall have power … to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and interstate commerce between the several states, and with the Indian tribes.”
“States have the right to do what they wish inside their own borders,” he said.
And referring to firearms, he said, “It gives the states the right to make whatever guns they want so long as [firearms] stay inside the own borders.”
Additionally, O’Neil said, in reference to national sovereignty and more specifically the Small Arms Treaty, he wants to insert in Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution the phrase “subject to this Constitution.” It would, therefore, state: “The president … shall have the power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, subject to this Constitution, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”
O’Neil said the insertion is essential because of the growing power of international treaties and the fact that too often, in his opinion, international treaties are implemented and used to override the U.S. Constitution.
O’Neil said that with these changes, the government “cannot amend the Constitution via fiat.”
Under Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution, state legislatures can submit proposals for amendments to the Constitution, and it is O’Neil’s hope that the Montana legislature will take up his ideas.
Feinstein’s move was a reaction to the school shooting in Connecticut in which 20 children and six adults were victims.
O’Neil said, “The Connecticut shooting came at an opportune time for her.”
He added, “Sen. Feinstein has been working on an assault weapons ban for at least eight years.”
“It will not make a significant dent in the murder rate of the United States,” he said.
O’Neil attributes Feinstein’s move to restrict firearm ownership to an ever-increasing control-oriented state, saying, “It appears the people who want more control over their citizens want to limit their access to weapons.”
Politicians in New York already have started discussing gun restrictions, registration and confiscation.
O’Neil has been in public service in Montana since 2001, where he served as a state senator until 2009, when he became a representative in the Montana House.
He is widely known for his ardent defense of civil liberties, limited government and constitutionalism. He has become known more recently for his request to be paid in gold and silver coins to guard himself against a potential collapse of the U.S. dollar.
The pushback from the state was just one headwind Feinstein was facing as a result of her precipitous decision to attack the Second Amendment.
Another front was on the White House website forum for citizen petitions. There, it took only hours for thousands of Americans to sign onto the request to “try Sen. Dianne Feinstein in a federal court for treason to the Constitution.”
The petition explained: “The Constitution was written to restrain the government. No amendment is more important for this purpose than the 2nd Amendment. The 2nd Amendment was written so the power could be kept with the citizenry in the face of a tyrannical government. It was well understood the Constitution acknowledged certain rights that could not be limited by government.”
The petition continued: “Sen. Dianne Feinstein has made it clear she does not believe in the Constitution or the inalienable rights of Americans to keep and bear arms. She is actively working to destroy the 2nd Amendment with her 2013 assault weapons ban. For this reason we the people of the United States petition for her to be tried in federal court for treason to the Constitution.”
Feinstein’s proposal would “ban the sale, the transfer, the transportation and the possession” of certain weapons, the California senator said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“Not retroactively, but prospectively. And it will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets.”
It would ban scores of firearms, including military-style “assault” weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeding devices. It also calls for the creation of a federal register that would require millions of gun owners to be fingerprinted and photographed.
The following is a summary of the legislation posted on Feinstein’s official senatorial website:
Bans the sale, transfer, importation, or manufacturing of:
- 120 specifically-named firearms
- Certain other semiautomatic rifles, handguns, shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one military characteristic
- Semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds
Strengthens the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and various state bans by:
- Moving from a 2-characteristic test to a 1-characteristic test
- Eliminating the easy-to-remove bayonet mounts and flash suppressors from the characteristics test
- Banning firearms with “thumbhole stocks” and “bullet buttons” to address attempts to “work around” prior bans
Bans large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.
Protects legitimate hunters and the rights of existing gun owners by:
- Grandfathering weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment
- Exempting over 900 specifically-named weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes and
- Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons
Requires that grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act, to include:
- Background check of owner and any transferee;
- Type and serial number of the firearm;
- Positive identification, including photograph and fingerprint;
- Certification from local law enforcement of identity and that possession would not violate State or local law; and dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration
A pdf of the bill summary is available here.
The state of Montana is no stranger to fighting the feds over weaponry.
Its legislature originated the Montana Firearms Freedom Act several years ago, adopting the plan that exempts from federal oversight any gun made, sold and kept in the state.
The law subsequently was adopted by seven other states, including Wyoming, where lawmakers went a step further and specified the option of a jail term for someone illegally trying to enforce a national gun limit on a Wyoming firearm.
The federal government sued Montana, and the case is pending in the court system.
In the case, the federal government has been accused of reneging on the promises that were made when the territory became a state in 1889.
The federal government is arguing that the Commerce Clause allows federal agencies to impose any requirement they choose on those weapons.
As part of those arguments, a long list of states, individuals and organizations have filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the appellate court, and one, from the Weapons Collectors Society in Montana, points out that Montana became a state under a legal compact.
At the time, “It was the understanding of the parties that the United States Constitution would not be construed by the federal government to deny or disparage the rights reserved by the people of Montana and by the state, including the right to regulate and engage in the intrastate manufacture and sale of guns and ammunition.
“The Compact states on its face that it may not be amended without consent of both the State of Montana and the United States. … The Appellee’s assertion the MFFA is preempted by federal law is an attempt to unilaterally amend that contract … and is, therefore, unenforceable.”
The organization, representing hundreds of gun enthusiasts across the state, explains how strongly Montanans feel about their right to defend themselves:
It cannot be fairly disputed that firearms making and selling was occurring within the boundaries of Montana in 1889. Those manufacturing activities were not regulated by the federal government at that time. … It is difficult to envision that those who negotiated the terms of the Compact in 1889 did not understand that the State reserved the right to regulate those firearms manufacturing/selling activities within Montana at the time of the making of the Compact or had agreed the People of Montana had given up forever their ability to make and sell firearms without first obtaining the federal government’s permission.
It is unlikely that the negotiators to the Compact understood the text of the U.S. Constitution to allow the federal government to regulate in any way the right to make, keep, bear, and sell arms.
Indeed, it could be argued that Montana would not have agreed to join the Union if the federal government had, at that time, suggested that it was going to enact legislation similar to the [Gun Control Act] or [National Firearms Act] and subject Montana citizens to federal criminal prosecution and civil penalties for engaging in local firearms dealing.
Earlier, the plaintiffs in the case, who have organized under the Firearms Freedom Act banner, filed their appeals brief, asking whether the judges will choose a “tyrannical” Washington or a federal government restrained by the Constitution.
Quoting Alexander Hamilton’s statement that the federalism system was intended to suppress “attempts of the government to establish tyranny,” the brief filed by the Montana Shooting Sports Association, the Second Amendment Foundation and MSSA President Gary Marbut of Missoula states:
The government may argue that it is not, in its current incarnation, tyrannical. The national government usually abides by the law, typically protects its citizens’ rights, and always celebrates in its peaceful transfers of power. Whatever fear appellants or anyone else may have of its becoming tyrannical, the government may argue, is no more than disingenuous alarmism.
Such an argument would be wrong.
Following Montana’s enactment, virtually identical versions of the MFFA were adopted in Tennessee (SB1610); Utah (SB11); Wyoming (HB95); South Dakota (SB89); Arizona (HB2307); Idaho (HB589); and Alaska (HB1860). Representing a consensus among the states on the limits of federal power, virtually identical copies of the MFFA have also been introduced in the legislatures of 23 other states, for a total of 31 jurisdictions where it has been enacted or introduced.