Nearly two years ago, I wrote about an intriguing Commerce Clause case involving the Montana Firearms Freedom Act. To wit, Montana enacted a regulatory regime to cover guns manufactured and kept wholly within state lines that was less restrictive than federal law. The Montana Shooting Sports Association filed a claim for declaratory judgment to ensure that Montanans could enjoy the benefits of this state legislation without threat of federal prosecution. The federal district court ruled against the MSSA.
On appeal to the Ninth Circuit, Cato joined the Goldwater Institute on an amicus brief, arguing that federal law doesn’t preempt Montana’s ability to exercise its sovereign police powers to facilitate the exercise of individual rights protected by the Second and Ninth Amendments. More specifically, for federal law to trump the MFFA, the government must claim that the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses give it the power to regulate wholly intrastate manufacture, sale, and possession of guns, which is a state-specific market distinct from any related national one.
The lawsuit’s importance is not limited to Montana; a majority of states have either passed or introduced such legislation. The goal here is to reinforce state regulatory authority over commerce that is by definition intrastate, to take back some of the ground occupied by modern Commerce Clause jurisprudence.
Well, after much delay – in part due to the Ninth Circuit’s waiting for Supreme Court instruction on the Commerce Clause in the Obamacare litigation – MSSA v. Holder finally saw oral argument two weeks ago. The Goldwater Institute’s Nick Dranias, who was the principal author of our joint brief, was able to get 10 minutes of argument time and sent me this report afterwards, which I reprint with his permission: