Montana moved a step closer Friday to declaring that local sheriffs are the supreme law of the land and trying to nullify any federal crackdown on assault rifles.
The measures were among a slate of gun rights bills that cleared the Legislature's House Judiciary Committee and now head to the House floor.
Other measures that advanced would let college students bring guns on campus, allow high school students to leave guns locked in their cars, and clear the way for nearly anyone to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
Several of the bills met with staunch opposition from Democrats.
The so-called "sheriffs first" bill says federal agents must get a sheriff's permission before making arrests or serving warrants — or risk local kidnapping or trespassing charges.
If the bill clears the Republican-controlled House and Senate, it would go directly to voters in 2014. The direct referendum would avoid the potential veto pen of Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat.
Supporters said it is a necessary check on the power of federal law enforcement agencies,
The measure was opposed earlier in the week at a hearing by local law enforcement agencies, and critics have said such a measure most certainly would face a legal challenge.
Opponents, led by Democrats, warned it would threaten the effectiveness of cooperative task forces tracking violent crime and drugs.
"To call the sheriffs in our state the supreme law of the land, I find that absurd," said Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula. "What is the message we are sending to Montana and the rest of the nation?"
Another bill that cleared committee would bar police from enforcing any federal bans on assault rifles or high-capacity clips. Supporters said it's necessary to protect gun rights in Montana.
Opponents, who called it an extreme piece of legislation, argued the bill also violates the U.S. Constitution granting the federal government supremacy in such matters.
The panel also advanced a measure allowing the use of silencers while hunting big game, and removing the potential penalty of disturbing the peace for the discharge of a firearm.