Proponents of a lawsuit challenging the regulatory powers of the federal government are now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case in the hope that the high court will overturn a federal appellate court ruling.
The case centers around the Firearms Freedom Act, which invokes states rights under the 9th and 10th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and declares that “any firearms made and retained in-state are beyond the authority of Congress under its constitution to regulate commerce among states.”
This means that any firearm manufactured or produced within a state is exempt from federal laws and regulations, including licensing fees, transaction records, and the scrupulous eye of federal inspectors so long as that firearm stays within its state of origin.
The FFA was conceived by Second Amendment advocate Gary Marbut and first passed in his home state of Montana. It has since been adopted and enacted in at least nine other states and introduced in approximately 20.
Back in August, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals essentially ruled that the FFA was trumped by federal law that requires gun manufacturers, gun shop owners and dealers to keep records, pay fees and make themselves available to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for inspection.
While the Ninth Circuit ruled against Marbut, it did recognize that his case had standing and that it was an issue for the Supreme Court to ultimately decide given that it challenged the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.
“Whether or not Marbut is correct in his critique of that jurisprudence, we are not free to disregard it,” noted the Ninth Circuit in its ruling. “To his credit, Marbut acknowledges as much, recognizing that this court’s ‘hands are tied’ with respect to binding precedent.”
Marbut, who serves as the president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, spoke about the lawsuit and the next chapter of the appeals process with local news affiliate KXLH.
“Our lawsuit is designed to challenge the federal Commerce Clause power — that is, the power given to Congress in the Constitution to regulate commerce among the states, which has been construed to allow the federal government to prohibit any economic activity within states,” he said. “And we think that that’s a transgression.”
Marbut went on to explain to KXLH that in 1942, the U.S Supreme Court improperly changed the meaning of three critical words in the U.S Constitution: “regulate,” “commerce” and “among.”
According to Marbut, that meant instead of allowing Congress to regulate commerce among the states, the court now allows the government, as he noted, “to prohibit any economic activity within the states.”
Although Marbut’s case specifically deals with firearms, he iterated that it also has broader implications for personal freedoms and government intrusion.
“If you care about individual liberty, you should care about this case,” he said. “The purpose of this case is to roll back federal power on several fronts.”
The case will now be one of many that the Supreme Court could opt to hear next year. However, there is no guarantee that the high court will choose to hear Marbut’s case. If it opts not to hear it, then Ninth Circuit Court ruling will stand and the Firearms Freedom Act will fall by the wayside — at least until another FFA lawsuit is filed (remember nine other states have passed the FFA) and the litigation process begins anew.