Wednesday, October 28, 2009

States Rights and Guns

The State of Montana has defied the federal government and their gun laws. If guns and ammunition are manufactured inside the State of Montana for sale and use inside that State then the federal firearms laws have no applicability since the federal government only has the power to control commerce across State lines. Some Utah legislators are considering similar legislation.

The problem with this legislation is that only liberates guns and ammunition made in one State for gun-buyers in that state. I would have done this a bit differently. My logic follows: Congress controls guns by abusing the "commerce clause" of the US Constitution (The "commerce clause" is one of a few enumerated powers listed in the US Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3). The clause states that Congress has the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the States, and with the Indian tribes.).

To justify gun control, Congress argues that since, during the process of commerce, guns usually cross state and, for imported guns, international boundaries, it can do whatever it wants to control guns. (I challenge anyone to name one item related to a constitutionally enumerated right that is so heavily and hysterically controlled as a gun -- a simple, inanimate tool of self-protection and sport.) Montana argues that the guns made and sold in Montana don't cross these borders and are therefore are not subject to the whims of the federal government.

My argument is that although most guns cross borders in traveling from the place of manufacture through distributors to the store where it finally reaches the consumer (and therefore subject to congressional regulation during that process), all transactions between a local gun store and its customers are local transactions -- not interstate or international transactions. Because they are local transactions, they are subject only to State and local regulation and, according to the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution, Congress has no business interfering whatsoever.

So, what the Montana legislature should have done is to simply declare all consumer purchases to be exactly what they really are: local transactions over which Congress has no authority. This would also fix the problem where Congress wants to usurp control over gun shows which also are local gatherings -- not interstate or international trade shows.

If Congress would stop trying to control local gun transactions and gun owners over which it has no authority (and is even specifically commanded by the US Constitution to butt-out), it would have a lot more time to read the stupid legislation that it keeps puking out.

Nevertheless, I am heartened by the fact that a few States are finally telling the federal government that it has overstepped the boundaries established by the people and the States through the US Constitution. We often hear about the separation of powers between the three branches of the federal government. But another, perhaps more important, control over power is the power given by the Constitution to the States and to the people to reign in federal power. After all, it was the people and the States that created the federal government and delegated very specific, limited power to it. The States and the people have allowed (and even accepted and encouraged) excessive power to be concentrated in the federal government and its bureaucrats. That must end!

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