States To Feds: Hands Off Our Guns


gunsA growing number of states are moving forward with legislation to exempt them from new federal gun controls and, in some cases, brand as criminals anyone who tries to enforce them.

While many of the bills are considered symbolic or appear doomed to fail, the legislative explosion reflects a backlash against legislative and regulatory efforts in Washington to tamp down on gun violence.

As of this week, at least 28 states had taken up consideration of gun bills this year, according to new data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. More than 70 bills have been put forward in all.

The burst of activity comes as the Obama administration and Congress pursue a series of gun control measures in the wake of December’s shooting massacre in Connecticut, which left 20 schoolchildren and six adults dead.

In addition to dozens of bills pending in the House and Senate, the Justice Department and other agencies are moving ahead 23 executive actions announced by President Obama in January.

The state bills vary in content and scope, but most are meant to nullify federal regulations that place new restrictions on gun rights, or other measures viewed as encroaching on the Second Amendment.

A bill approved this month by Utah’s House of Representatives, for example, was designed to assert the state’s rights to enforce its own gun laws, according to its author, GOP Rep. Brian Greene.

“We saw all of this activity in D.C.,” Greene said, referring to the legislative efforts and a series of roundtable meetings held by Obama’s taskforce on gun violence. “It became apparent immediately that state jurisdiction was irrelevant to them.”

The bill effectively died this week, when the state’s legislative session ended, but Greene said he might introduce it when the legislature reconvenes.

In Montana, a similar bill prohibiting state or local police from enforcing a federal assault weapons ban has passed both houses of the state legislature and awaits reconciliation between the two chambers before it goes to the governor.

Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, has not revealed his position on the bill.

Montana went for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by double digits in November. And GOP Rep. Krayton Kerns, who penned the legislation, noted that Bullock would be up for reelection in a few years.

“He probably needs one gun rights vote,” Kerns said. “Maybe this will be it.”

Kerns said he introduced the bill in response to the federal actions.

“Obviously they’re making an assault on the Second Amendment,” he said.

The Montana bill was the first to pass both chambers of a state legislature, though many others – from Alaska to Vermont – are still pending.

Some go further than the Utah and Montana proposals, including a bill awaiting action in an Arizona House committee. That measure would make a felon of any law enforcement officer – including federal authorities – who attempts to enforce a federal law or regulation on a firearm that is made or maintained in the state.

UCLA law Professor Adam Winkler, an expert in the politics of gun control, said states are not at liberty to disregard federal laws and predicted few, if any, of the bills would be enacted.

“This is really about symbolic politics,” Winkler said. “They want to make a stand.”

But state lawmakers insisted their efforts were not for show. State Rep. Mark Patterson of Idaho said his bill is not intended to “thumb our nose at Washington.”

Read more: THE HILL

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  1. Someone should read these folks the Constitution. The Congress has power to regulate interstate commerce and unless there is a firearm manufacturer within Montana, this is something within the federal government’s jurisdiction.

    Besides, why would any sane person object to requiring a background check before purchasing a firearm?

  2. Hi Charlie. I think you are correct that the Interstate Commerce clause would override the State law except for firearms that are manufactured in Montana (there are such). As someone who has undergone an extensive background check to obtain a New York State Concealed Carry Permit, I do not object in principle to such checks and I agree that a database including those judged psychologically unfit to own a firearm would prevent some of the carnage. The key word is “judged”. You can’t prohibit everyone who ever saw a shrink from buying a rifle. That would discourage a lot of folks from seeking needed help. The mental health pro would have to exercise some discretion in determining whether or not the individual actually poses a risk to himself or others before reporting to the database.

    The other issue is lack of consistency. No one has to pass a background check or demonstrate a need to buy a Corvette or an “M” car or any other high performance auto which, unarguably, poses a much greater risk to public health and safety than any “assault rifle”. Since current war on so called assault rifles is primarily symbolic (N.B. The FBI Consolidated Crime Report indicates that more murder are committed with baseball bats and other blunt objects than are committed with rifles of any kind), the State of Montana is also acting symbolically.

  3. While it is true one can murder with a baseball bat, a chain, household poisons, or even a car, a multiple murder usually is done with guns, and most carnages would be unfeasible without a semiautomated or automated weapon. There is no magic solution, but still, I think it’s long overdue to put some restrictions and mandatory checks, in order to discourage and/on prevent easy access to weapons for people with serious problems (that does not mean “everyone who ever has seen a shrink”).