COLUMBIA FALLS – A state lawmaker in the Flathead Valley is proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution to offset the effects of new firearms restrictions, which if passed, he says will erode civil liberties and infringe on state’s rights.

Rep. Jerry O’Neil, R-Columbia Falls, says he will work with the Montana Legislature in an effort to adopt two new constitutional amendments to the U.S. Constitution to protect firearm ownership and national sovereignty. He said the issue is pressing due to the call for gun restrictions in the wake of last month’s school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

He is most concerned about a proposal by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would require Americans to register their guns, and would ban the sale, transfer, importation or manufacturing of military-style weapons.

“Historically, the registration of firearms is the first step toward taking them away,” O’Neil said. “I believe it is a precursor to major overhauls to the Second Amendment.”

In the Flathead Valley, gun manufacturers are thriving as small businesses, and he worries that proposed changes to the Commerce Clause will infringe on the state’s rights.

In Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, O’Neil is proposing that the word “among” be replaced with “between,” so as to read: “Congress shall have power … to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and interstate commerce between the several states, and with the Indian tribes.”

“I believe that is the way our founding fathers intended it to be,” he said. “This would put some sideboards on the interstate commerce clause so there is a limit to it.”

A second point of concern to O’Neil relates to national sovereignty and the Small Arms Treaty, and he is asking that Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution be amended, with the insertion of “subject to this Constitution.” It would read: “The president … shall have the power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, subject to this Constitution, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”

He said the insertion is critical due to the growing power of international treaties, which he says are implemented and used to override the U.S. Constitution.

“I’m scared that the Small Arms Treaty that the United Nations is talking about would override the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and I am sure it would infringe on our rights to keep and bear arms,” he said.

O’Neil said he hopes the state Legislature will submit his proposed amendments to Congress.

In his 12 years in public service, first as a state senator and now as a representative, O’Neil has earned a reputation for his zealous defense of civil liberties while favoring limited government and constitutionalism. Most recently, O’Neil made national news when he requested that he be paid in gold and silver coins, saying he is concerned that a national debt of $16 trillion will devalue the U.S. dollar.

Montana Legislative Services denied the request, saying it was impossible.

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