Terror Bill Federalizes State Crimes

Fact Sheet: Government Terror Bill Could Federalize Many State Crimes

Section 104 of H.R. 2703 could federalize many state crimes that deal with violence and property, and could tremendously increase the scope and jurisdiction of the BATF. To trigger federal involvement under this section, the offense must involve “conduct transcending national boundaries” and must be conduct that “affects” — or merely threatens to affect — “interstate or foreign commerce.”

We already have much experience with the interpretation of comparable language. In one case, the Supreme Court held that a farmer growing and consuming his own crops was “affecting commerce” because he had NOT purchased his crops from the market. (See Wickard v. Filburn, 1942.) In other words, he had negatively impacted interstate commerce by failing to buy his crops in the open market.

Given this abusive interpretation of “affecting commerce,” can we really count on “transcending national boundaries” to provide any meaningful safeguard in liberal Federal courts? It would appear that the “affecting commerce” language could be twisted and abused in the same way it has been in the past — thus leaving the Federal government free to prosecute many state crimes involving violence or property, and giving the BATF more power and jurisdiction.

Consider that an offender could easily trigger federal involvement under Section 104 by traveling in “interstate or foreign commerce . . . to escape apprehension.” If a New York gun owner — like Bernie Goetz — shoots a crook, has he engaged in “conduct transcending national boundaries” if the gun used is an Italian-made Beretta? One can certainly make the case. Moreover, if he flees to Vermont — as Goetz did — he has now traveled in interstate commerce “to escape apprehension.” It appears he could now be subject to a BATF investigation, followed by federal prosecution team seeking a 30 year sentence for an “assault with a dangerous weapon.”

In view of recent ad hominem charges hurled at legitimate Second Amendment groups concerning their supposed complicity in the activities of Timothy McVeigh, it can hardly be any consolation that Janet Reno and her politicized Justice Department would have to certify that the offense was an act of terrorism.


“Perhaps the most compelling reason to oppose nationalizing crime is that it contradicts constitutional principles. The drafters of the Constitution clearly intended the states to bear responsibility for public safety. The constitution gave Congress jurisdiction over only these crimes: treason, counterfeiting, and piracy on the high seas and offenses against the law of nations.”

— Edwin Meese, III, former Attorney General of the U.S.
The Orange County Register, Feb. 11, 1996