Montana Legislators Tell Feds To “Take a Hike”
They’re tired of Washington pushing them around, stripping away their constitutionally protected freedoms.
So Montana legislators took steps in February to exempt the state from various federal laws, ranging from gun restrictions to National ID card requirements.
Rep. Roger Koopman (R) authored the gun bill in the House to exempt all guns and ammunition — that are manufactured in Montana — from federal regulations, as long as such firearms and ammo remain in the state.
HB 366 would mean that guns could be manufactured in Montana without serial numbers, sold without a background check and possessed without any government tracking whatsoever.
Koopman’s idea was extremely popular in the House, and it was easily approved by a vote of 73-24.
While there was scattered applause on the House floor after the bill passed, the bill was not without its detractors. Rep. Tim Dowell (D) criticized the bill, saying it will aid the criminally minded.
Terrorists “can come to Montana, they can buy one of these weapons, go on a reign of terror, and there would be no way to track them down,” he said.
It seems that Rep. Dowell is unfamiliar with the advent of fake IDs, which already allow terrorists to illegally buy firearms from gun dealers in every state.
Not to mention the fact that terrorists have done quite a bit of damage already by simply using box cutters on planes.
Vetoing the National ID card in Montana
The Montana House also passed legislation that would exempt the state from National ID card requirements that are currently being debated in the U.S. Congress. (See Ron Paul’s speech against the National ID card at http://www.gunowners.org/op0506.htm on the GOA website.)
Rep. Diane Rice (R) is the author of HB 304, a bill that specifically prohibits Montana from adopting rules that would follow federal standards for state-issued drivers’ licenses.
Federal standards, Rice said, amount to a National ID card. She and other critics fear such standards will enable federal officials to require that radio identifier chips be inserted into drivers’ licenses, thus allowing U.S. citizens to be tracked.
Rice’s bill fared quite well, as it passed the House with a 96-1 vote.
Ironically, her bill passed overwhelmingly, even though Montana citizens could face serious reprisals if the state refuses to comply with the proposed National ID requirements at the federal level.
If any state refuses to comply with these federal standards, then citizens in that state will not be able to use their driver’s licenses as a form of ID when boarding an airplane or jumping on a train.
“To the average citizen, that means you are not going to get on an airplane,” said Dean Roberts of Montana’s motor vehicle division.
Regardless, legislators in the state are serious about doing their part to stop the continuing encroachments from Washington. As this newsletter goes to press, both Montana bills are pending in the Senate.
Montana’s rich history in vetoing illegitimate federal mandates
This is not the first time that Montana officials have interposed themselves to shield their people from out-of-control officials in Washington, DC.
Gun owners will probably remember that several sheriffs, including Montana Sheriff Jay Printz, refused to run Brady background checks on gun buyers after the law was enacted in 1994.
The sheriffs argued the federal government had no constitutional authority to impose such a requirement, and they steadfastly stuck to their guns.
When Printz and several of these other sheriffs were sued in court, Gun Owners Foundation came to their defense and submitted an amicus brief in support of their “civil disobedience.”
The U.S. Supreme Court delivered its verdict in 1997 in favor of the sheriffs, ruling that federal officials could not force the sheriffs to do their bidding.
Repeal the federal income tax?
Despite this record of success in Montana, Rep. Dowell is openly questioning whether a state should exempt itself from federal law.
“Maybe we should say we aren’t subject to the income tax,” Dowell sarcastically asked.
Putting aside the fact that many folks in Montana would probably welcome such an idea, there is tremendous historical and constitutional precedent for recent actions taken in the Treasure State.
So much so, that if the Founding Fathers were alive today, Montana would certainly rank high on their list of states.
Historical precedent for vetoing unconstitutional laws
What Montana is doing today is certainly no different than what Virginia and Kentucky did in 1798, when a firestorm developed after the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Taken together, these laws allowed President John Adams to deport certain immigrants and to punish newspaper writers who criticized his administration.
Political foes saw the legislation as a raw power grab where Congress was giving the President the illegitimate means to punish his political enemies.
The response from opponents was quick and precise. Virginia and Kentucky issued formal protests, challenging Congress to repeal the legislation. But that was not all.
James Madison (writing for Virginia) and Thomas Jefferson (writing for Kentucky) both said that states were also duty-bound to cancel unconstitutional laws within their borders.
“Where powers are assumed [by the federal government] which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy,” Jefferson said. “Every state has a natural right… to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits.”
Madison did not mince words either while penning the Virginia Resolutions of 1798. He said that when faced with harmful encroachments by the federal government, the states “are in duty bound, to interpose, for arresting the progress of evil.”
Even “liberals” like Hamilton were strong advocates of states’ rights
While Madison and Jefferson were the most prominent opponents of the Alien and Sedition Acts, one should understand that their views were not just the rantings of two renegades. Even Alexander Hamilton, who is labeled by historians as being one of the most aggressive supporters of a central government, could not ignore the power that states wield.
“It may safely be received as an axiom in our political system,” Hamilton wrote in Federalist 28, “that the State governments will, in all possible contingencies, afford complete security against invasions of the public liberty by the national authority.”
Of course, the positions taken by Virginia and Kentucky were not without controversy. But in the end, the majority of America sided with these two states when they “fired” many of the national leaders who had supported the Alien and Sedition Acts.
During the election of 1800, angry voters went to the polls in droves, and not only defeated President John Adams, but sent most of his Party packing as well.
That election was the end of the Federalist Party.
It’s been more than 200 years since Madison and Jefferson penned their stinging rebukes against excessive federal power. But in Big Sky Country, Montana legislators have remembered their history quite well.
Madison and Jefferson would be proud.