CHEYENNE — With some trepidation, Governor Dave Freudenthal on Thursday signed into law a bill asserting that Wyoming-made firearms are exempt from all federal laws and regulations.
The legislation, which takes effect in July, is meant as a shot across the bow of the federal government. But it’s unclear whether the new law will remain a symbolic declaration of states’ and Second Amendment rights, or spark a real-life confrontation between state and federal officials.
Under the law, any firearms made from scratch in Wyoming — besides automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers — are officially exempt from all federal gun laws so long as the gun isn’t taken out of the state.
That means no three-day waiting period to buy a Wyoming-made gun, no Federal Firearms License needed, no federal taxes to pay…..
Wyoming is the third state to pass a Firearms Freedom Act, after Montana and Tennessee. The laws are all based on the argument that since the federal government justifies its ability to regulate firearms on a section of the U.S. Constitution allowing Congress to regulate interstate commerce, any guns that never leave a state are exempt from federal control.
But Wyoming’s Firearms Freedom Act is harsher than the other states’ laws, as it says that any state or federal official who tries to enforce any federal gun law on firearms made and sold in Wyoming could face a $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
(note, there’s an error in this, Wyoming is the fourth state to pass such a law, Utah just passed one. But Wyoming’s IS the first with penalties for federal officials who violate it.)
The problem with States’ Rights gun bills
By Michael W. Dean
The Wyoming Firearms Freedom Act-2., Wyoming bill HB0095 has been signed and will become law in July. It’s a Tenth Amendment treatment of the Second Amendment, i.e. it is a States’ Rights deceleration.
The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Wyoming bill HB0095 will allow our state to circumvent the federal government’s gun laws for guns made and used in the state. (Most federal gun laws use the “Interstate Commerce Clause” to insert the feds into state business.) HB0095 rightfully applies the 10th Amendment (States’ Rights) to declare that if guns & ammo are made here and only ever used here, and not shipped out of state, they do not come under federal jurisdiction.
Both Tennessee and Montana tried this last year. But the feds basically said “No, you’re wrong.” The states said “Why?”, the feds said “BECAUSE WE SAY SO!”, and both states basically said “OK. We’re sorry…never mind.”
The Wyoming bill, HB0095, is different in that it allows the state to prosecute federal agents who ignore this law.
I’m all for this bill. But the problem with it is that in order to be more than a piece of paper, it would have to go to be tried in the courts. For that to happen, it could require a Wyoming citizen to get arrested by the feds, so Wyoming can arrest the fed who arrested the Wyoming citizen. Because that would give it teeth. Otherwise it’s just like the Tennessee and Montana bills: a nice start, but just a piece of paper in reality.
I think it has to be tested to make it stick.
My prediction: a Wyoming citizen will make a few silencers in his barn on his lathe, sell ’em at the swap meet, get arrested by a fed. Wyoming will arrest the fed who arrests the Wyoming citizen. It could likely turn into a “hostage negotiation and prisoner exchange.” With one side trading a prisoner to the other side for their prisoner. And the new law might get muted as a condition of the process
Wyoming will likely pick and choose who to use as a test case…probably find the least “gun nutty” person arrested to make the case….like was done in DC in [i]Heller[/i], and like is happening in the Supreme Court now with that old grandpa in Chicago. So I wouldn’t count on smooth sailing for everyone who decides to test this if/when it passes. I think it also might have to do with timing in relation to the upcoming elections.
Or the feds might keep their prisoner, and just bring in an army to take back their prisoner.
There may be someone willing to be a martyr for it. I’m not going to volunteer for that job. There are generally no conjugal visits in federal prison. But if there are people willing to die for liberty, there must be someone willing to face prison to test a law. (Though I’d wait until after the election. No reason to get thrown to the lions just to get someone votes.)
To be clear, I am NOT encouraging anyone to try be the test case. Encouraging that could be illegal.
The way this will likely be tested will be the way the Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller was done. Someone (in this case, probably the state attorney general) will review cases and find the most non-“gun nut” candidate who’s already been arrested.
For District of Columbia v. Heller, a wealthy libertarian attorney (Robert A. Levy, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute) who has never even owned a gun hired a team and looked at and vetted a bunch of people who had been turned down for a permit in DC. They settled on a policeman, a “regular guy” who didn’t rock the boat in any other area of his life.
Levy and team didn’t want much involvement from the gun lobby either. They figured (probably correctly) that the case would have a better public face if it were more about rights not guns, even though it was about gun rights.
The gun lobby, at least the NRA, would likely NOT touch this Wyoming one. It’s a little too libertarian of a bill and not Republican enough for them. (My prediction? They won’t give it much ink.)
There are other possible ways this could be tested. A corporation could ignore federal law and be prosecuted by the feds. A corporation would have to risk having all their assets seized. And if that corporation started making machine guns and selling them over the internet with people driving within the state to pick them up at the factory, the feds would likely also arrest the guys at the loading dock filling orders, and the customers picking them up.
The third way I could see is the feds testing it simply on the State of Wyoming, just for passing it. But win or lose, that would risk having federal funding cut off, like the feds usually threaten to do when states have raised their speed limits in the past. The state would likely risk that anyway if they defended an individual or corporation on this, too. “Dad’s gonna cut off your allowance if you don’t behave.”
That might just be what it takes. Losing federal funding. Because “nailing some paper to the church door” is a nice start, but it doesn’t have teeth.
It’s one thing to yell “GET OFF MY PROPERTY!” at trespassers. It’s another thing entirely to keep trespassers off your property.