Claiming that the federal government lacks the Constitutional authority to regulate firearms maintained within one state, a South Carolina State Senator has introduced a bill that would exempt the state’s guns, ammo and accessories from all federal regulation.
The bill, called the South Carolina Firearms Freedom Act, cites the Ninth and Tenth Amendments for legal support, in conjunction with the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The argument goes that the two Amendments give to states all powers not specifically given to Washington, and that since state’s regulate intrastate commerce—in this case, the sale and purchase of firearms—states have the sole authority to regulate firearms manufactured and used within their borders.
The bill’s scope is specifically limited to only natively built and sold firearms to keep it from broaching the federal government’s power to regulate interstate trade via the Commerce Clause.
State Sen. Lee Bright (R) pre-filed the bill earlier this month for the state legislature to take up the issue in the coming session. Bright filed the same bill during the current session, but it never reached a floor vote.
Bright introduced his bill December 13, one day before the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since that massacre, the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, he has railed against all efforts to tighten gun laws, such as a proposed federal ban on assault weapons.
Among the firearm accessories that would be exempt from federal regulation under the bill are, “telescopic or laser sights, magazines, flash or sound suppressors, folding or aftermarket stocks and grips, speedloaders, ammunition carriers, and lights for target illumination.” The law would not apply to larger-caliber weapons, such as those that fire explosive projectiles or that, “cannot be carried and used by one person.”
The bill would also require that all firearms manufactured in the state be stamped visibly with, “Made in South Carolina.”
Should the bill even pass, it’s legality would be highly dubious. Eight states have already passed similar laws, though those votes were symbolic; the states all still adhere to federal regulations.
Montana passed the first such law in 2009, and the federal government immediately responded in a politely-worded letter from the ATF reaffirming the government’s power to regulate firearms. (As other states have passed their own Firearms Freedom Acts, they too have received immediate reminders from the ATF of the federal government’s authority on the matter.) Gun rights groups in Montana filed suit in federal court in support of the law there, though the case was quickly dismissed in 2009. Those same groups, Montana Shooting Sports Association and Second Amendment Foundation, have appealed the decision.
A Ron Paul fan, Bright campaigned on a platform against perceived government overreach and over-regulation. But his campaign was most notable for producing numerous parody ads, such as a Star Wars-themed video that called U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) a “dark lord and Sith master.” That same video featured a cackling Obama surrounded by hellfire alongside an “Obamacare” sign.
Jon Terbush is a Boston-based writer whose work has appeared in Talking Points Memo, Business Insider, the New Haven Register, and elsewhere. He tweets about politics, cats, and baseball via @jonterbush.
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