by Bryce Shonka
A line was drawn in the sand last week – a response by the Federal Government to the State of Tennessee and their assertion of sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution.
Part of a series of moves by states seeking to utilize the Tenth Amendment as a limit on Federal Power, the Tennessee State Senate approved Senate Bill 1610 (SB1610), the Tennesse Firearms Freedom Act, by a vote of 22-7. The House companion bill, HB1796 previously passed the House by a vote of 87-1.
Governor Breseden allowed the bill to become law without signing.
The law states that “federal laws and regulations do not apply to personal firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition that is manufactured in Tennessee and remains in Tennessee. The limitation on federal law and regulation stated in this bill applies to a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured using basic materials and that can be manufactured without the inclusion of any significant parts imported into this state.”
At the time of passage through the TN House and Senate, Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers had this to say-
“Be it the federal government mandating changes in order for states to receive federal funds or the federal government telling us how to regulate commerce contained completely within this state – enough is enough. Our founders fought too hard to ensure states’ sovereignty and I am sick and tired of activist federal officials and judges sticking their noses where they don’t belong.”
The Federal Government, by way of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms expressed its own view of the Tenth Amendment this week when it issued an open letter to ‘all Tennessee Federal Firearms Licensees’ in which it denounced the opinion of Beavers and the Tennessee legislature. ATF assistant director Carson W. Carroll wrote that ‘Federal law supersedes the Act’, and thus the ATF considers it meaningless.
Constitutional historian Kevin R.C. Gutzman sees this as something far removed from the founders’ vision of constitutional government:
“The letter says, in part, ‘because the Act conflicts with Federal firearms laws and regulations, Federal law supersedes the Act, and all provisions of the Gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act, and their corresponding regulations, continue to apply.’ That is precisely what I predicted the Federal Government’s response to the Tennessee act would be. As I told Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News’s Glenn Beck Program on June 5, 2009, federal officials don’t care about a good historical argument concerning the meaning of the Constitution.”
“Their view is that the states exist for the administrative convenience of the Federal Government, and so of course any conflict between state and federal policy must be resolved in favor of the latter.”
“This is another way of saying that the Tenth Amendment is not binding on the Federal Government. Of course, that amounts to saying that federal officials have decided to ignore the Constitution when it doesn’t suit them.”
The Federal Government has regularly claimed that the commerce clause of the constitution, which gives DC authority to regulate commerce between the states, gives them authority to regulate or add prohibitions on items that never cross state lines.
One notable use of the commerce clause in this manner can be found in the 2005 decision by the Supreme Court in ‘Gonzales vs. Raich’, where the court contended that consuming one’s locally grown marijuana for medical purposes affects the interstate market of marijuana, and hence that the federal government may regulate—and prohibit—such consumption. They used this claim, even though at the same time they made it clear that no legal market for marijuana exists.
One key aspect of the ATF’s letter is that it was only sent out to existing Federal Firearms Licensees, those generally already in compliance with federal regulations – and who likely would not have participated in the TN Firearms Freedom act anyway, according to sources close to Tenth Amendment Center.
Ultimately what the letter represents is another move in the chess match being played out between the states and the Federal Government, the resolution of which may not be seen for quite some time.
Source: Tenth Amendment Center