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BATFE Battling Back

Written by Ann Shibler on August 09 2009.

Tennessee legislatureThe Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE, but more commonly known as the BATF) has experienced a bit of turf being taken back in a constitutional legislative move by the state of Tennessee. But now the controversial federal ageny seems poised to fight back.

The move to defend the right to keep and bear arms came in Tennessee. The “Volunteer” state was the first to pass a Firearms Freedom Act that invoked both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to protect citizens’ right to keep and bear arms, and within that, to keep the federal government’s nose out of the gun business inside of the state. With this move, Tennessee has become target number one for the BATFE’s arrogant posturing  for now.

The Tennessee Firearms Freedom Act is a beautiful piece of constitutionalism that passed in June and went into effect without the governor’s signature; it passed in the state senate 22-7 and in the house 87-1. Here are the most inspiring sections:

(1)  The tenth amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees to
the states and their people all powers not granted to the federal government
elsewhere in the Constitution and reserves to the state and people of Tennessee
certain powers as they were understood at the time that Tennessee was
admitted to statehood.  The guarantee of those powers is a matter of contract
between the state and people of Tennessee and the United States as of the time
that the compact with the United States was agreed upon and adopted by
Tennessee and the United States; 
 
(2)  The ninth amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees to
the people rights not granted in the Constitution and reserves to the people of
Tennessee certain rights as they were understood at the time that Tennessee
was admitted to statehood.  The guarantee of those rights is a matter of contract
between the state and people of Tennessee and the United States as of the time
that the compact with the United States was agreed upon and adopted by
Tennessee and the United States.
 
(3)  The regulation of intrastate commerce is vested in the states under
the ninth and tenth amendments to the United States Constitution, particularly if
not expressly preempted by federal law.  Congress has not expressly preempted
state regulation of intrastate commerce pertaining to the manufacture on an
intrastate basis of firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition;
 
(4)  The second amendment to the United States Constitution reserves to
the people the right to keep and bear arms as that right was understood at the
time that Tennessee was admitted to statehood, and the guarantee of the right is
a matter of contract between the state and people of Tennessee and the United
States as of the time that the compact with the United States was agreed upon
and adopted by Tennessee and the United States; and
 
(5)  The Tennessee Constitution clearly secures to Tennessee citizens,
and prohibits government interference with, the right of individual Tennessee
citizens to keep and bear arms.

The rest of the TFFA enumerates the details of the gun trade within state borders and proclaims, rightly, “The authority of congress to regulate interstate commerce in basic materials does not include authority to regulate firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition made in Tennessee from those materials,” while it clearly states its goal of regulating its own gun trade as it sees fit.

It’s really hard to argue with the clearly specified rights laid out by the Tennessee legislators, so harmonically in tune with the Constitution. So, the BATFE is trying a different variation on a theme; a theme of subtle contempt for the Constitution combined with a touch of officiousness.

The BATFE is now engaged in a letter-writing campaign of sorts, aimed at Tennessee gun dealers, proclaiming their final and supreme authority in the matter. One Tennessee gun dealer posted a letter allegedly from the BATFE with this following excerpt criticizing the TFFA:

The Act purports to exempt personal firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition manufactured in the State, and which remain in the State, from most Federal firearms laws and regulations. However, because the Act conflicts with Federal firearms laws and regulations, Federal law supersedes the Act, and all provisions of the gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act, and their corresponding regulations, continue to apply.

While the case could be made that the BATFE itself is unconstitutional from its inception, its claim that Tennessee’s state rights are in conflict with federal gun laws, and therefore superseded by the federal laws, are spurious at best, and based on years of judicial precedent from incorrect and wrongful interpretation of the Supremacy Clause and the whole notion of interstate commerce regulation by the courts.

One question is, will the state of Tennessee defend its own rights and the rights of its citizens from the inflated egos of the officials of one of the most notorious bureaus in America? If Tennessee chooses not to defend its rights and its citizens, then the Act is so many meaningless words, and not even symbolic in nature.
 

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