Alabama Declares War On Constitution Again, Introducing Bill To Ignore Interstate Commerce Clause

Well, the south is apparently intending to rise again. Not only did one of their congressman file a bill on Monday to eliminate the federal government’s ability to function, the state has decided it should weigh in on ignoring the U.S. Constitution itself.

State Senate Bill #43, titled the “Firearms Freedom Act” is a proposed measure which would, in its own words:

Relating to firearms, firearm accessories, and ammunition manufactured and retained within the borders of Alabama; to exempt from federal regulation under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition manufactured and retained in this state; and to exclude certain firearms and ammunition from this act.

This is an old argument, that if a product or good stays within the states borders, the federal government has no authority. The problem is, this argument has been tried before, in front of the Supreme Court, and lost. In the case of Gonzales vs Raich, none other than Justice Antonin Scalia, conservative firebrand, wrote the opinion which destroys the core argument of the Alabama bill:

Unlike the power to regulate activities that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce, the power to enact laws enabling effective regulation of interstate commerce can only be exercised in conjunction with congressional regulation of an interstate market, and it extends only to those measures necessary to make the interstate regulation effective. As Lopez itself states, and the Court affirms today, Congress may regulate noneconomic intrastate activities only where the failure to do so “could … undercut” its regulation of interstate commerce. … This is not a power that threatens to obliterate the line between “what is truly national and what is truly local.”

Translated into English from legalese, Scalia is saying that just because a product or service never leaves the state, it still will impact interstate commerce. In this case, firearms made and staying within Alabama will change the dynamic of the firearms trade, changing the commerce between the states by virtue of their presence. As a result, the federal government has not only a reason to regulate, but a constitutionally demanded requirement to regulate them. The proposed measure is a pandering to the ill-educated, know-nothings of the Tea Party and the legislators likely know that it will never withstand a constitutional test. But by passing such a measure, they can trot themselves in front of the crowd, make wild claims about guns and dead hands, and pocket the money paid to them by the gun manufacturers lobby.

This is, of course, on the heels of bills in Texas and Wyoming to arrest federal agents enforcing firearms statutes. Alabama seems intent to raise the stakes in this neo-conservative mindset, that the right to arms is absolute and supersedes any other right in the Constitution, such as the right to life itself. One must ask how much blood money the senators in Alabama have gotten from the firearms manufacturers.

Alabama is home to four weapons manufacturers at this time, one of which is General Dynamics, the defense contractor. The bill, as written, would incline people to assume, should all gun regulation be prohibited, that any and all forms of arms would be available to them which are manufactured in Alabama. This would include the 155mm howitzer and 120mm Mortar, just the thing for home defense.

When your argument for a bill is discredited by the ultra-conservative stalwart of the Supreme Court, perhaps it is time you stopped trying to make it. One must wonder if we are witnessing the spidery strands of the Koch brothers or the American Legislative Exchange Council at work here. There is a word for people who engage in clear, repeated violations of the U.S. Constitution: UnAmerican.

Nathaniel Downes is the son of a former state representative of New Hampshire, now living in Seattle Washington.

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