HELENA — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a request to review a ruling against a Montana law that attempts to exempt guns made and kept in the state from federal regulation, but the so-called Firearms Freedom Act isn’t dead yet.
The high court on Monday turned down a petition filed by Montana Shooting Sports Association President Gary Marbut to overturn a federal appeals court’s ruling against the law. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled that the Supreme Court already has decided the issue in favor of federal regulation.
But a separate petition request filed by Attorney General Tim Fox’s office over the 2009 state law is still pending before the Supreme Court, and Marbut said he isn’t ready to cede defeat yet.
“The denial of our petition may not bode well for Montana’s petition,” Marbut said. “But the fat lady hasn’t sung yet.”
The 2009 state law, which Marbut helped write, says firearms that remain in the state where they were manufactured are not subject to Congress’ authority to regulate interstate commerce.
Since then, eight other states — Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Tennessee, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — have passed similar measures.
Gun control advocates have said the laws would allow felons to obtain guns without background checks and make it harder to trace guns used in crimes. Gun advocates say only the Supreme Court can decide the issue because it would limit the reach of Congress to regulate guns.
Marbut filed his lawsuit after the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms told him it would be illegal for him to manufacture a bolt-action youth-model rifle called the “Montana Buckaroo” for sale in Montana under the new state law.
Attorneys general from Montana and nine other states intervened in Marbut’s lawsuit in favor of the Firearms Freedom Act.
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke say in their Jan. 6 filing to the Supreme Court that courts should more carefully scrutinize Congress’ power to regulate purely intrastate products whose effect on the interstate market is not obvious — especially when federal regulation would trump the states’ policing powers.
Marbut’s petition sought more sweeping changes to how the high court interprets the Constitution’s interstate commerce clause.
The Supreme Court rarely accepts petitions to review lower-court decisions. The court has asked for a response to the Montana petition request to be filed by Feb. 7.