HELENA — A federal appeals court on Friday ruled against state laws designed to buck federal gun rules — but advocates welcomed the court's decision for leaving open the possibility of an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday agreed with a lower court's decision against the 2009 Montana Firearms Freedom Act, which also has been adopted in other pro-gun states. The laws attempt to declare that federal firearms regulations don't apply to guns made and kept in that state.

The Justice Department successfully argued that the courts have already decided Congress can use its power to regulate interstate commerce to set standards on such items as guns. Some gun control advocates sided with the federal argument, saying that "firearm freedom acts" would allow felons to obtain guns without background checks and make it harder to trace guns used in crimes.

The Montana Shooting Sports Association said it had expected the appeals court would rule against the law.

The group's president, Gary Marbut, argued in the case that he wanted to manufacture a small, bolt-action youth-model rifle called the "Montana Buckaroo" for sale in Montana. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms pre-emptively told Marbut such a gun would be illegal under Montana law.

"This was about as good of a ruling as we could have expected from the 9th Circuit. We must get to the U.S. Supreme Court to accomplish our goal of overturning 70 years of flawed Supreme Court rulings on the interstate commerce clause," Marbut said in a release. "Only the Supreme Court can overturn Supreme Court precedent."

The state of Montana has intervened in support of its law. The case also attracted the support of Utah, Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Marbut said the federal government has become a "monster," that abuses the interstate commerce clause to intrude on states.

The appeals court left open the possibility of an appeal by agreeing with Marbut that it would cost him money — and potentially customers, as he argued — to comply with federal firearms regulations.

But the court also said past decisions give the government the power to regulate guns. It pointed to a case that concluded homemade machine guns could affect the regulated interstate market of machine guns.

"But even if Marbut never sells the Buckaroo outside of Montana, Congress could rationally conclude that unlicensed firearms would make their way into the interstate market," the appeals court wrote. "This result does not change because the Buckaroo will bear a 'Made in Montana' stamp to distinguish it from firearms that may be sold in the interstate market."

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(12) comments


I'm pro gun rights...however I believe the laws need to be modified to keep guns out of the hands of criminals ...go to any flee market., buy what ever you want, no ID, no paper just cash, it's not right

Tim Huffman

A few years ago, the Supreme Court used the interstate commerce clause to rule that the feds could intervene in California's medical marijuana trade. The grow, the customers, the transactions, all took place inside state borders. The court ruled that the money itself could have or would in future travel out of state and so made the entire transaction interstate commerce. Absurd? Yes, but it would be the height of hipocracy to rule otherwise on guns.


If the courts would just concentrate on keeping violent thugs incarcerated, instead of depriving Americans of their right to own and carry guns, this country would be much better off.


I suggest that the same will happen to voter suppression laws passed in several states including Montana. Idiot conservative lawmakers pass this stuff even though attorneys and other legal experts tell them it is unconstitutional. Of course like Michelle Bachmann and the rest of these supposed "constitutional) experts...haha....they do not have a clue. Glad this was overturned and the appeals court agreed. Go to the Supreme Court wingnuts...spend some more money...


In principle, the same could be said for "idiot" liberal lawmakers along with their neo-environmentalist, left-wing nut, socialist, communist extremist democrat comrades? Just thinking..

Joseph From Missoula

In my book, that's not thinking, but mindless name calling.

Objective observer

Except the courts have been ruling against unconstitutional conservative laws like this one...name one court decisions against "environmentalist, left-wing nut, socialist, communist extremist democrat" laws.

Cue the jeopardy music!


Yes, it is a good decision. As ot should be.


Idiot leftist judge. What part exactly of made and sold in Montana qualifies as interstate commerce?


It's a bad precedent going back decades. They can regulate a single plot of homegrown, home-consumed produce on the basis that it affects the interstate market. It's a good thing in some ways and a scary thing in a lot of others.

Joseph From Missoula

The precedent goes back to a supreme court decision during the New Deal about a farmer and his crops, which were subjected to the interstate commerce clause. Since then, the meaning of interstate commerce has been broadened, in certain cases, to include commodities made and sold within a state's borders. The lower court and appellate court ruled that this case qualifies, and constitutional lawyers assess that it will stand scrutiny from the supreme court, if they even take the case.


That's very interesting I wasn't aware of that. I believe that's what is known as the difference between case law and constitutional law. I think there are still a few good arguments to be made in favor of the State of Montana's position. It wouldn't surprise me if this matter wound up before the Supreme Court. Several other states have passed similar laws. Ultimately I think this is all about states rights vs. rights reserved to the federal government.

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