Lawmaker aims at making Texas firearms exempt from federal regulation
By ANNA M. TINSLEY
A Texas lawmaker wants to further push state sovereignty from the federal government.
Rep. Leo Berman, a former Arlington mayor pro tem, has filed a bill to make guns, ammunition and gun parts that are made, sold and kept in Texas free from federal regulation. "I fail to see why a bill is necessary in the first place, but ok..."
That would exempt them from federal gun registration, dealer licensing rules and buyer background checks. State laws would still apply.
"This does two things," said Berman, a Tyler Republican. "It tests our sovereignty in relationship to the federal government, and it would attract new small gun manufacturers to the state to manufacture certain types of weapons and ammunition that are only used in intrastate commerce."
Guns and sovereignty are fiery issues in the Lone Star State, where residents resist federal regulations that could trample on either right. "Kinda makes me wonder if Texas isn't the place for me..."
Sparks flew last month when Gov. Rick Perry talked about how some Texans might want the state to secede from the U.S. and when a bill advanced in the Legislature to tell the federal government to "cease and desist" imposing regulations on the state. "Our own (FL) governor has his head in the political clouds. He's more worried about getting that 'spendulous' check than he is about keeping our sovereign rights."
Berman’s bill, similar to measures in Montana and Alaska, would push the sovereignty button even further.
The bill is pending in the House Public Safety Committee.
Berman said his bill is geared to help smaller "mom and pop" gun, ammunition and gun-part makers in Texas.
Those who make and sell their products in the state would put a "Made in Texas" stamp on items meant to stay in Texas.
Lawmakers say the federal government regulates firearms and ammunition through its power to regulate interstate commerce. If Texas prevents those products from leaving the state, federal officials’ arguments for regulating them are rendered moot, state lawmakers say. "I'd say the same argument is good for a whole lot of things, among them drug prohibition and alcohol manufacturing (have you ever looked into the crazy TTB/ATF rules regarding making and selling wine, for instance?)."
"The bill requires every component to be made and stay in Texas," Berman said. "If it leaves Texas, it will be subject to federal legislation." "Makes perfect sense to me."
Critics say the bill is a long shot. They worry that if residents try to follow such a law, they would risk prosecution from the U.S. government, which may not recognize the legislation. Karl Dean Pifer, who owns KC Precision Ballistics in Granbury, said he has mixed feelings about the bill. "What's the issue here? If the bill passes, I'd think people would immediately begin manufacturing in-state items just to make the point. We 'gun nuts' can be pretty hard-headed."
He and his wife and daughter make federally licensed ammunition at their home for up to .50-caliber firearms. Last year, they sold about 10,000 rounds — an amount they have already reached in the first quarter of this year, Pifer said.
While he would like some of the regulatory relief the bill could bring, Pifer said, he’s worried that manufacturers might not be under strict-enough guidelines.
"With no regulation, it could open it up to a lot of bad guys doing a lot of bad stuff," he said. But "it would be great to sell within the state without any additional taxes or regulations." "This doesn't sound like a supporter of firearms freedom to me. Kinda reminds me of how AB lobbies to make the tax and fee burden as tough as possible on breweries just to keep the competition from getting a foot hold."
A similar bill is pending in Alaska, where House members have approved the Alaska Firearms Freedom Act.
Some there say they see the bill as a way to reclaim some of their rights from the federal government.
But Texas lawmakers are keeping an eye on the Montana measure, which takes effect Oct. 1. That is the gun-sovereignty law they believe most likely to be tested in court.
Some have said they hope to set off a court battle by finding a Montana resident to notify the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that he or she will build and sell "made in Montana" rifles without federal licensing. "I'm not too clear on why such a Montanan would need to notify the TTB (formerly the ATF) of anything at all."
If not allowed to proceed, the resident would file a lawsuit in the hope of making it to the U.S. Supreme Court for a final ruling.
"This will be the test case, to challenge the federal law," Berman said. "I’m very interested in our Second Amendment rights under the Constitution." "My opinion on this? Okay, since you insist. '...THE FREEDOM OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.' I take this to mean that 'We the People' have the right to our weapons of war/hunting/action shooting/target shooting/plinking/etc... including those weapons made illegal to me before I was even born."
Hávamál stanza 38"
"Let a man never stir on his road a step
without his weapons of war;
for unsure is the knowing when need shall arise
of a spear on the way without."