HELENA, MT., Feb. 4, 2015 –  A bill seeking to block any future federal bans on firearms or magazines was passed by an important House committee in Montana today.

Introduced by Rep. Art Wittich, House Bill 203 (HB203) would prohibit the state “from enforcing, assisting in the enforcement of or otherwise cooperating in the enforcement of a federal ban on firearms and magazines” enacted on or after Jan. 1, 2015. The bill also prohibits state participation in any federal enforcement action implementing such a federal ban on firearms and magazines.

“This is a powerful first step against the gun control establishment,” said Scott Landreth of ShallNot.org. “Passage is like drawing a line in the sand and sets the foundation for stronger action by Montana in the future.”

Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” is an extremely effectively method to bring down federal gun control measures because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership in the states.

By withdrawing enforcement support on the state end, any such federal gun control measures would be “nearly impossible to enforce,” said Judge Andrew Napolitano in a discussion on such bills last year.

“Citizens are increasingly realizing that the federal government is inventing “authority” over their rights, including those under the 2nd Amendment,” said Wittich. “States are similarly realizing they can and must refuse to participate in these improper regulatory expansions.”

Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, which originally drafted the bill, agreed. “I want to do everything possible to divorce Montana from federal control,” he said. “In Montana, we know our people and what they need, and we know our culture. What may seem good in D.C. is not always desirable in or good for Montana.”

Originally, the bill addressed just a ban on semi-automatic firearms and large capacity magazines, but Wittich wanted to expand the scope to all firearms and magazines, something gun rights activists appear to be fully on board with.

“What I’d like to see is that the bill be broadened by removing the references to semi-automatic weapons,” Wittich told the Associated Press after a hearing last week. “The intent of this was that anything that impairs Montanans’ rights to keep and bear arms by the federal government … is something that we should not be co-opted into as far as enforcement.”

“With the constant looming threat of presidential executive orders, this is a preemptive action by Montana to ensure that such a move would have no effect in the state,” said Landreth. “When it comes to our right to keep and bear arms, we cannot sit idly by and wait for something bad to happen, we need to draw a line in the sand and defend our rights today.”


HB203 is based on a legal doctrine known as anti-commandeering. This is a legal principle that the Supreme Court has upheld in cases from 1842 to 2012, saying that state resources cannot be “commandeered” on behalf of the federal government. The landmark case was the 1997 Printz case, where the Court held that local law enforcement could not be required to enforce the Brady Gun Control Act for the federal government.

For the majority, Justice Scalia wrote:

The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policymaking is involved, and no case-by-case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.

As noted Georgetown Law Constitutional Scholar Randy Barnett has said, “This line of cases is now 20 years old and considered well settled.”


HB203 will now go to the House floor for debate and vote.


In Montana: Follow the steps to support this bill at THIS LINK

ALL OTHER STATES: Take action at this link

Michael Boldin

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