State lawmakers have given final approval to legislation designed to let Arizonans buy, sell and manufacture guns and bullets while thumbing their nose at the federal government.
A measure sent to Gov. Jan Brewer on Tuesday spells out that any firearm or ammunition manufactured in the state “is not subject to federal law or federal regulation.” That includes the requirement to register firearms.
To qualify, though, the guns or bullets need to have been made entirely in Arizona “without the inclusion of any significant parts imported from another state.”
Queries to gubernatorial press aide Paul Senseman about the governor’s position on the measure were not returned. But Brewer has portrayed herself as a strong proponent of the rights of individuals to carry guns to protect themselves.
If Brewer goes along, the law would take effect on Oct. 1.
Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City, the sponsor of the bill on Brewer’s desk, said those who intend to take advantage of the law need to be careful. For example, she said it would be “prudent” for anyone selling an Arizona-manufactured gun to tell a buyer that he or she can’t take the weapon outside of the state.
To that end, the legislation requires weapons manufactured under the exemption this bill would create from federal firearms law to have “made in Arizona” stamped into the metal part of the frame.
But McLain said there’s a higher purpose behind the law, even higher than opening the door to Arizonans carrying Arizona-made guns. She sees it as the first step in challenging the ability of the federal government to regulate the right of Arizonans to protect themselves without having to comply with federal law.
In fact, the measure she sponsored — along with an identical measure by Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa — contains language designed to provoke a fight with the federal government.
It contends the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. And it cites an even broader right to carry guns in the Arizona Constitution.
Potentially more significant, it challenges the right of the federal government to claim the right to regulate weapons under the premise that guns are part of “interstate commerce.” That’s why the language of the bill deals only with those guns made and sold in Arizona.
McLain admitted she is spoiling for a fight.
“The federal government is taking more and more and more on itself,” she said, using the argument that it gets to regulate interstate commerce. She said the legislation becomes a way of sending a message to Washington: “Keep your hands off our guns. We’ll take care of it.”
McLain said, though, Arizona is not going to go it alone in this fight.
She noted this law is patterned after one in Montana. After that law took effect, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent an open letter to licensed federal firearms dealers saying that federal law supersedes the new state statute.
Several Montana organizations then filed suit in federal court challenging the right of the federal government to control firearms and ammunition manufactured and sold within Montana. That lawsuit is still pending.
While McLain said she believes in the right of Arizonans to own and carry guns without federal permission, there are limits to even her legislation. It would still outlaw weapons that generally are already prohibited under federal law, including guns that can’t be carried and used by one person and automatic weapons.