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Can the Gov't Regulate Private Gunmakers? Montana Man Challenges Federal Laws


"It's a gun bill, but it's another way of demonstrating the sovereignty of the state of Montana."

Gary Marbut

Generally, you can go to court to protect your Constitutional right to bear arms, or to fight federal laws that infringe upon the rights of states. But one enterprising Montana gun enthusiast is currently bringing a court case that seeks to promote both: gun rights and states' rights.

Today the WSJ reported on Gary Marbut, a Montana firearms instructor and enthusiast who has crafted a legal challenge against the federal government so that he may sell a special type of .22 caliber firearm he builds himself -- the Montana Buckaroo -- within the state of Montana, and without the interference of the federal government and its agencies.

Marbut's premise is straightforward: if he builds the Montana Buckaroo in-state, marks it as such, and sells it within the state's borders, federal gun regulations such as recording the transaction and paying a licensing fee do not apply.

Marbut's legal quest so far has seen setbacks, but he is currently awaiting a major decision in San Francisco Federal Appeals Court. According to the WSJ, Marbut's court appearances have already had an impact -- eight states have adopted laws based on his theories, the Montana legislature has passed many of his bills to relax gun regulations, and his support base appears to be growing:

"The Montana Firearms Freedom Act, which he drafted and pushed through his state's legislature, declares that guns made in Montana, stamped 'Made in Montana' and staying in-state aren't subject to federal regulations. Eight states have adopted his Firearms Freedom Act... [and] Ten state attorneys general, dozens of elected officials and an array of conservative groups are backing the legal challenge he engineered to get his constitutional theory before the Supreme Court. "

At the heart of Marbut's challenge is the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Interstate Commerce Clause resulting from the infamous Wickard v Filburn case of 1942. That case, which in essence ruled that  a farmer couldn't grow his own wheat for his own use without federal government permission, has been the basis for countless federal laws that to many observers have little if anything to do with commerce.

The Commerce Clause is also at the heart of the debate over Obamacare, which is heading to the Supreme Court. Marbut's legal salvos in Montana come at a time when government overreach is one of the primary political discussions of the day. Pending court decisions about the role of government- regarding healthcare, the 2nd amendment, and a host of other issues -- are likely to determine public policy for decades to come.

Mr. Marbut reportedly does not expect to win his current appeal, but even if the Supreme Court takes his case and rules against him, he has made it clear that he refuses to give up.  He has spoken about a pushing a bill forward called  "Sheriffs First,"  which would allow Montana sheriffs to arrest federal law enforcement officials who enter their counties without asking first.

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