Wyoming has joined a growing list of states with self-declared exemptions from federal gun regulation of weapons made, bought and used inside state borders – but lawmakers in the Cowboy State have taken the issue one step further, adopting significant penalties for federal agents attempting to enforce Washington's rules.
According to a law signed into effect yesterday by Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal, any agent of the U.S. who "enforces or attempts to enforce" federal gun rules on a "personal firearm" in Wyoming faces a felony conviction and a penalty of up to two years in prison and up to $2,000 in fines.
WND reported just days ago when Utah became the third state, joining Montana and Tennessee, to adopt an exemption from federal regulations for weapons built, sold and kept within state borders.
A lawsuit is pending over the Montana law, which was the first to go into effect.
But Wyoming's law goes further, stating, "Any official, agent or employee of the United States government who enforces or attempts to enforce any act, order, law, statute, rule or regulation of the United States government upon a personal firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in Wyoming and that remains exclusively within the borders of Wyoming shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, shall be subject to imprisonment for not more than two (2) years, a fine of not more than two thousand dollars ($2,000.00), or both."
TRENDING: Collateral damage
Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, who has spearheaded the Montana law, now describes himself as a sort of "godfather" to the national campaign.
He said the issue is not only about guns but about states' rights and the constant overreaching by federal agencies and Washington to impose their requirements on in-state activities.
He said South Dakota, Oklahoma, Alaska and Idaho also appear to be close to adopting similar legislation, and several dozen more states have proposals in the works.
Tenth Amendment Center map showing 4 states adopting gun exemptions (in red)
According to an analysis by Michael Boldin at the Tenth Amendment Center, the federal government has used the Commerce Clause, which authorizes the regulation of commerce that crosses state lines, to regulate just about anything.
In the Montana lawsuit, the federal government's brief argues it can regulate intrastate commerce because of the Commerce Clause.
But the analysis said what the states are doing is simply a nullification.
"Laws of the federal government are to be supreme in all matters pursuant to the delegated powers of U.S. Constitution. When D.C. enacts laws outside those powers, state laws trump. And, as Thomas Jefferson would say, when the federal government assumes powers not delegated to it, those acts are 'unauthoritative, void, and of no force' from the outset," Boldin wrote.
"When a state 'nullifies' a federal law, it is proclaiming that the law in question is void and inoperative, or 'noneffective,' within the boundaries of that state; or, in other words, not a law as far as the state is concerned. Implied in such legislation is that the state apparatus will enforce the act against all violations – in order to protect the liberty of the state's citizens," he continued.
"By signing H.B. 95, Gov. Freudenthal places Wyoming in a position of proper authority while pressing the issue of state supremacy back into the public sphere," he continued.
On a blog, one commentator noted, "This is a healthy sign. Legislators in several states working to take back sovereignty and restore constitutional government. The next step that has to be taken is to replace representatives and senators who don't support states rights. Then, the House needs to introduce impeachment proceedings against Supreme Court justices who exhibit bad behavior. Contrary to popular belief, Supreme Court justices do not serve lifetime appointments. They serve for periods of GOOD BEHAVIOR. I contend that erroneous decisions constitute bad behavior."
According to the Casper, Wyo., Star-Tribune, the law takes effect in July and consumers could purchase guns immediately under the exemption from the state's sole firearms manufacturer, Freedom Arms, which makes revolvers in the $2,000 price range.
The newspaper reported authorities already have discussed the possible scenario of a local Wyoming sheriff arresting a U.S. marshal.
"That's a question we've sort of asked ourselves," John Powell, a spokesman with the U.S. attorney's office in Cheyenne, told the paper. "We're not exactly sure how this is going to play out."
State Rep. Alan Jaggi, R-Lyman, told the newspaper there could be confrontations.
"I think it could be a possibility if we had some overzealous – do I want to say bureaucrat? – that would just say, 'Hey, we're going to show these states we have all the authority,'" Jaggi said. "States' rights – I'm willing to say that's important enough to us to do it."
In signing Utah's law, Gov. Gary Herbert said it was time to act.
"There are times when the state needs to push back against continued encroachment from the federal government. Sending the message that we will stand up for a proper balance between the state and federal government is a good thing," said Herbert in a statement.
The Montana lawsuit was filed by state officials against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and others seeking a court order that the federal government stay out of the way of Montana's management of its own firearms within state borders.
In a subsequent filing, the federal government demanded dismissal of the action, explaining it can regulate in-state commerce under the Constitution's Commerce Clause.
As WND reported, the action was filed by the Second Amendment Foundation and the Montana Shooting Sports Association in U.S. District Court in Missoula, Mont., to validate the principles and terms of the Montana Firearms Freedom Act, which took effect Oct. 3.
Marbut argues that the federal government was created by the states to serve the states and the people, and it is time for the states to begin drawing boundaries for the federal government and its agencies.
The government's filing in the case demands its dismissal, citing a lacking of "standing" for the plaintiffs and the court's lack of "jurisdiction," as well as the Constitution's Commerce Clause. The government filing argues, "The Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit have repeatedly held that even purely intrastate activities, such as those the MFFA purports to exempt from federal law, do affect interstate commerce and thus are within Congress' power to regulate. As a result, even if plaintiffs had standing and jurisdiction existed, plaintiffs' amended complaint fails to state a claim and must be dismissed."
The Commerce Clause, however, can be interpreted to have been amended by the 10th Amendment, which is part of the Bill of Rights, adopted subsequent to the U.S. Constitution, Marbut explains.
His organization said, "The Commerce Clause was amended – by the 10th Amendment. It is a bedrock principle of jurisprudence that for any conflict between provisions of a coequal body of law, the most recently enacted must be given deference as the most recent expression of the enacting authority. This principle is ancient. Without this principle, laws could not be amended or repealed."
For example, U.S. courts repeatedly affirmed slavery before it ultimately was rejected.
There's no question that the components of the Bill of Rights have authority: just look at the First Amendment, Marbut explained.
The federal government had written gun dealers in Montana as well as in Tennessee when it adopted its own version of the same law that warned against following the state laws.
The letters were distributed to holders of federal firearms licenses.
In the Tennessee case, Carson W. Carroll, the assistant director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told dealers the adopted Tennessee Firearms Freedom Act "purports to exempt personal firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition manufactured in the state, and which remain in the state, from most federal firearms laws and regulations."
The exemption is not right, the federal agency letter contends.