In states around the country, there's a growing movement to address and resist two of the most abused parts of the Constitution -- the Commerce Clause and the 2nd Amendment. Already being considered in a number of state legislatures, and passed as law in Montana and Tennessee this year, the Firearms Freedom Act (FFA) is a state law that seeks to do just that.
The latest to join the FFA movement? Kentucky. Pre-filed for the 2010 legislative session, HB87 seeks to "Create new sections of KRS Chapter 237, relating to firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition that are made in Kentucky, marked made in Kentucky, and used in Kentucky, to specify that these items are exempt from federal law"
While the FFA's title focuses on federal gun regulations, it has far more to do with the 10th Amendment's limit on the power of the federal government. The bills in state houses contain language such as the following:
"federal laws and regulations do not apply to personal firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition that is manufactured in [this state] and remains in [state]. The limitation on federal law and regulation stated in this bill applies to a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured using basic materials and that can be manufactured without the inclusion of any significant parts imported into this state."
Some supporters of the legislation say that a successful application of such a state-law would set a strong precedent and open the door for states to take their own positions on a wide range of activities that they see as not being authorized to the Federal Government by the Constitution.
The principle behind such legislation is nullification, which has a long history in the American tradition. When a state ‘nullifies' a federal law, it is proclaiming that the law in question is void and inoperative, or ‘non-effective,' within the boundaries of that state; or, in other words, not a law as far as the state is concerned.
All across the country, activists and state-legislators are pressing for similar legislation, to nullify specific federal laws within their states.
A proposed Constitutional Amendment to effectively ban national health care will go to a vote in Arizona in 2010. Fourteen states now have some form of medical marijuana laws - in direct contravention to federal laws which state that the plant is illegal in all circumstances. And, massive state nullification of the 2005 Real ID Act has rendered the law nearly void.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
Supporters say the growth of such a movement is long overdue.
"For far too long elected officials and unelected bureaucrats at the federal level have passively forgotten or actively neglected the Tenth Amendment that guarantees rights not enumerated in the Constitution be left to the individual states," said Minnesota State Rep. Tom Emmer, who introduced an FFA in his state. "The willful disregard of the Tenth Amendment in relation to a citizen's right to bear arms isn't the only constitutional infringement that we should be worried about, but it is one that has been singled out by the new administration."
"Enough is enough," urged Tennessee State Senator Mae Beavers. "Our founders fought too hard to ensure states' sovereignty and I am sick and tired of activist federal officials and judges sticking their noses where they don't belong."
In October, the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA) and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) filed a lawsuit in federal court in Missoula, MT to validate the principles and terms of the Montana Firearms Freedom Act (MFFA).
"We feel very strongly that the federal government has gone way too far in attempting to regulate a lot of activity that occurs only in-state," explained MSSA President Gary Marbut. "The Montana Legislature and governor agreed with us by enacting the MFFA. It's time for Montana and her sister states to take a stand against the bullying federal government, which the Legislature and Governor have done and we are doing with this lawsuit. We welcome the support of many other states that are stepping up to the plate with their own firearms freedom acts."
Even the most ardent supporters suggest that the real test will come if the federal courts rule against the FFA. Will they give up at that point, or will they follow in the footsteps of medical marijuana activists around the country?
The latter faced down nearly the entire federal apparatus -- federal agencies who didn't recognize state law, countless federal raids and arrests, and a Supreme Court that ruled against their cause in 2005. Even with such stacked odds, they persisted in their state-level efforts, and today, enough states have medical marijuana laws that the federal government is unable (or unwilling) to oppose them.
Only time will tell if gun rights activists have the same courage.