The Firearms Freedom Act (FFA) “Sweeping the Nation”

FYI the FFA is a law that declares that Congress can’t regulate any firearms made and retained in-state, ’cause it’s beyond Congress’ authority to regulate intra-state commerce. ‘Cause it ain’t intra-state, is it? firearmsfreedomact.com reports that “Following initial Montana enactment, clones of the Firearms Freedom Act have subsequently been enacted in Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota, and other clones have been introduced in the legislatures of twenty-some other states.” It will, of course, be a snowy day in Hawaii before my current home state of Rhode Island thumbs its nose at the feds over firearms. Meanwhile, add Arizona to the list of FFA signatories. And color me confused. While I understand the state’s rights beef in relation to federally-mandated health insurance, what gun manufacturer wants to get involved with this? You know, aside from any that make guns in Texas.

comments

  1. avatar Brad Kozak says:

    Actually, this is not so much a firearms issue as it is a state-rights one. It was in the midst of the Great Depression, when FDR asked for – and received – sweeping powers to regulate commerce by the Supreme Court's overly-broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause. These laws are really one big stalking horse to get them before the current Supremes, in the hope that they will rein-in what Congress hath wrought. The idea is if the court re-interprets the Commerce Clause, it will trigger a tsunami of challenges to other Federal laws, as they are only valid if the Commerce Clause is broadly interpreted.

    I'm in hopes that the Supremes will uphold these new laws, and bitch-slap the Federal government. It's high time, IMHO, that States Rights should be on the rise, and the Feds should have some limits placed on their powers.

  2. avatar Martin Albright says:

    Well, we shall see but I wouldn't be too hopeful. States can, of course, pass whatever laws they wish but whether it will cause this current court (or future ones) to rein in the Commerce Clause is highly doubtful.

    Keep in mind that all Congress needs to do in order to invoke the commerce clause is to construe that the entity to be regulated moves in interstate commerce, uses the instrumentalities of interstate commerce (such as highways, railroads, air corridors, rivers, etc) or substantially affects interstate commerce. A strong argument can be made that all three of these apply to firearms.

    For the current state of the Commerce Clause, see the new-deal era case, Wickard v. Filburn (where the Court said that a federal law that prohibited a farmer from producing more than a certain amount of corn was validly applied to a farmer even though the corn in question not only never left the state, it never left that farmer's property) or the Heart of Atlanta Motel case (a civil rights discrimination case where the civil rights act was held to apply to a motel that refused service to blacks, because of the hotel's proximity to highways used in interstate commerce and the fact that people traveled from other states to stay in the hotel.)

    This is not like Lopez, where the Supreme Court struck down a gun-free-school-zone act on the grounds that keeping guns out of schools had nothing to do with commerce – interstate or otherwise. The transportation, sale and manufacture of firearms has a lot to do with commerce, so the chances that the Court would uphold the FFA in all but the most limited circumstances are pretty slim.

    Here are the links:

    Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickard_v._Filburn

    Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_of_Atlanta_Mot

    1. avatar Robert Fure says:

      Reading Wickard v. Filburn makes me hope the FFA keeps spreading. That's ridiculous. States Rights do need a booster shot.

      Just because something is law, doesn't make it right. 6 states passing and 20 more introducing FFA is not just some group of kids wearing empty holsters. That's 52 Senators. Change can happen if you fight for it.

      1. avatar Griz says:

        Unfortunately–In Montana it is doubtful if our 2 liberal Senators will back us against the Feds.

  3. avatar Martin Albright says:

    Minor correction on the Wickard v. Filburn, it was wheat, not corn.

  4. avatar Martin Albright says:

    Another point about these FFAs is that they could only apply to firearms that are made completely within the borders of a given state. Every part of the firearm, lock, stock and barrel (one of the many firearm-related phrases to make it into the English vernacular) must be made within a given state in order for the FFA to have effect. So the majority of firearms would continue to be regulated – Glocks, Rugers, Winchesters, Smith and Wessons, Remingtons, Kimbers, et al, are all squarely under the regulation of the commerce clause because all move in interstate (and international) commerce.

    The only firearms that the FFA could free from Federal scrutiny would be one-off custom guns, most likely single-shots, bolt-actions or muzzle loaders, and even that would be iffy because of the reasons I've already stated.

    1. avatar Robert Fure says:

      States that had major firearm factories could reasonably sell those brands in state. There is a Beretta factory in Maryland, for example, that could theoretically sell the assault weapons if they made them.

      Also, the only part of a firearm that is actually a "firearm" is the lower receiver in the case of assault rifle style weapons. In many weapons, especially the AR-series of rifle, the lower receiver is easy to make in almost any machine shop that can handle the materials.

      So I would say that you'd be correct that every part of the firearm would have to be made in state – if you were buying a complete weapon. But if you only buy the "firearm" (lower receiver) all the other parts are merely accessories, by law.

      So, you have "AutoGuns Michigan" start up and create fully automatic lower receivers and sell them. That is the gun. They sell nothing else. They make nothing else. They are not regulated by inter-state commerce (theoretically).

      The buyers then buy all the "accessories" that include parts made in other states. Those parts are legal to sell without government regulation because they're not firearms.

      So you order a parts kit, a 14" barrel, some 30 round mags, put it all together, and you've got a fully-automatic short barreled AR, where the "firearm" was built completely in MI and it would (theoretically) be legal in this scenario.

  5. avatar Martin Albright says:

    Robert Fure:

    The buyers then buy all the “accessories” that include parts made in other states. Those parts are legal to sell without government regulation because they’re not firearms.

    So you order a parts kit, a 14″ barrel, some 30 round mags, put it all together, and you’ve got a fully-automatic short barreled AR, where the “firearm” was built completely in MI and it would (theoretically) be legal in this scenario.

    I don't think that would work because once you assemble those out-of-state parts onto that in-state receiver, you have assembled a firearm from parts that moved in interstate commerce, bringing it under Federal control.

    And that assumes that you are correct in your argument that the receiver itself can't be regulated federally, which I think would fail. After all, neither Mr. Filburn nor the manager of the Heart of Atlanta Motel conducted any business outside of their home states and yet the court ruled that the Commerce Clause allowed Congress to regulate their activities. Firearms receivers are undeniably items of commerce. Furthermore, they are bought, sold and transported using instrumentalities of interstate commerce like highways, railroads, telephones, and the internet. That factor by itself would probably be enough of a nexus with interstate commerce to allow federal regulation, notwithstanding the state laws to the contrary.

  6. I’m somewhat ignorant of all the legal jokeying. However isn’t it possible for states to recall their senators and representatives in front of the state assemblies and have a public hearing that enforces the will of the people or even for a recall election? Just wondering.

  7. Griz, your right I have the same concerns. I am researching though so I can make a more informed statement. But I do believe that there is a way for each state to recall it’s rep’s and hold them accountable. Maybe a recall petition. I’ll get back with an answer soon. Thanks folks.

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