As the federal government begins its dive into the gun debate, GOP lawmakers across the country are introducing preemptive measures that seek to make those hypothetical future federal firearms restrictions unenforceable in their states.
Republican lawmakers in Arizona, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Washington state have all sponsored legislation this month prohibiting the enforcement of federal laws and regulations on firearms, ammunition and firearms accessories produced and sold within their state.
In Michigan, 13 GOP state senators have introduced the Michigan Firearms Freedom Act to protect Michigan gun and ammunition manufacturers from federal regulation. The bill passed the state Senate Judiciary Committee in a 3-1 party-line vote Wednesday, which means it will now receive a full vote on the Senate floor.
Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren), the only “no” vote on the committee, is concerned that the bill acts too soon and poses serious constitutional issues.
"The [new] federal regulations or laws aren't even out there yet," Bieda told the Detroit News. "I feel like we're buying a lawsuit without even knowing what the lawsuit is for."
Yet since 2009, legislators in at least 21 states have introduced their own version of the Firearms Freedom Act, arguing that the Ninth and 10th Amendments allow the states to treat the sale of firearms, ammunition and accessories as intrastate commerce, thus freeing those sales from federal oversight.
"The regulation of intrastate commerce is vested in the states," the Michigan bill reads. "Congress has not expressly preempted state regulation of intrastate commerce pertaining to the manufacture on an intrastate basis of firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition."
Some states have taken their legislation a step further, threatening either monetary fines or imprisonment for any federal official who enforces federal gun laws within the states’ boundaries.
Arizona had already passed a measure to ward off federal gun restrictions on firearms sold and kept in the state in 2010, Now, a new bill proposed this month threatens to classify federal officials who enforce federal gun laws as Arizona Class 6 felons. Although this is the state's least severe felony classification, it can still lead to jail time for those convicted.
Similarly, Washington state's proposed Firearms Freedom Act could impose a penalty of five years' imprisonment or a $10,000 fine on federal employees enforcing federal gun laws and regulations.
One local government has also joined the fight against federal gun restrictions. The Franklin County Commission in southeastern Indiana unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday excluding the county from any past, present or future federal laws pertaining to gun control.
"I think it's time to express our feelings," Franklin County Commissioner Tom Wilson said in an interview with the Connersville News-Examiner. "It has to do with our Second Amendment, guns, gun control and infringement on our right to keep and bear arms."
Although the latest bills may or may not gain enough traction to become law, eight states -- Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming -- have already passed versions of the Firearms Freedom Act. Unlike the current proposed measures, these laws were passed in 2009 and 2010, before the new gun control efforts inspired by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence made the constitutional argument against the Firearms Freedom Act -- and its interstate/intrastate distinction -- in a May 2010 court filing over the Montana version of the law. The center wrote, "The Commerce Clause grants the federal government authority to regulate firearms because such weapons are easily and frequently sold and traded across state lines and used in crimes that affect commerce."
The case of Montana Shooting Sports Foundation v. Holder is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
Also on HuffPost:
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
"I wish to God she had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said of slain principal Dawn Hochsprung on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/louie-gohmert-guns_n_2311379.html"><em>Fox News Sunday</em></a>. He argued that shooters often choose schools because they know people will be unarmed.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)
"If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials that were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would be an opportunity to stop an individual trying to get into the school," he <a href="http://www.wtop.com/610/3162096/Gov-Is-it-time-to-arm-school-officials">told WTOP's "Ask the Governor" show</a> Tuesday, warning that Washington may respond to such a policy with a "knee-jerk reaction."
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) & State Sen. Frank Niceley (R)
Gov. Haslam says he will consider a Tennessee plan to secretly arm and train some teachers, <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/tennessee-armed-teachers.php">TPM reports</a>. The legislation will be introduced by State Sen. Frank Niceley (R) next month. "Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun]," Niceley told TPM. "These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they’re going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have."
Oklahoma State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) & State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R)
State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20121217_336_0_OKLAHO168827">told the Tulsa World</a> he plans to file legislation that would bring guns into schools, calling their absence "irresponsible." “It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended – to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," he said. "I’ve been considering this proposal for a long time. In light of the savagery on display in Connecticut, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come." Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) told the Tulsa World that teachers should carry concealed weapons at school events. "Allowing teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits the ability to have weapons at school events would provide both a measure of security for students and a deterrent against attackers," he said.
Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R)
Baxley, who once sponsored Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, <a href="http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2012/12/17/florida-legislator-allow-guns-in-schools/">told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune </a>that keeping guns out of schools makes them a target for attacks. “We need to be more realistic at looking at this policy," he said. "In our zealousness to protect people from harm we’ve created all these gun-free zones and what we’ve inadvertently done is we’ve made them a target. A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)
At a Tea Party event Monday night, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/rick-perry-guns-in-schools_n_2322185.html">Perry praised a Texas school system that allows some staff to carry concealed weapons to work</a> and encouraged local school districts to make their own policies.
Minnesota State Rep. Tony Cornish (R)
Cornish <a href="http://www.kdlt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22736&Itemid=57">plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers to arm themselves</a>, according to the AP.
Oregon State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R)
In an email <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/oregon-state-rep-dennis-richardson-teacher-guns-stopped-connecticut-shooting_n_2317444.html?ir=Education">obtained by Gawker</a> and excerpted below, Richardson tells three superintendents that he could have saved lives had he been armed and in Sandy Hook on Friday: <blockquote>If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide. ... [O]ur children's safety depends on having a number of well-trained school employees on every campus who are prepared to defend our children and save their lives?</blockquote>
Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett
"And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," Bennett, who served as education secretary under Ronald Reagan, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/bill-bennett-education-secretary-connecticut-shooting_n_2311774.html">told <em>Meet the Press</em> Sunday</a>. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who's trained, responsible. But, my god, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to."