Skip to content

States’ Rights Update: PA on Nullifying Federal Gun Laws; OH Senate Affirms 10th; More News

Back on November 17, Michael Boldin at the reported that the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania became one of the latest States to formally introduce legislation potentially nullifying federal gun laws through their own Firearms Freedom Act:

Pennsylvania State Representative Sam Rohrer has introduced the “Firearms Freedom Act” (HB1988) for consideration in the state legislature.    The bill is “An Act prohibiting certain firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition from being subject to Federal law or Federal regulation.”

HB1988 currently has 48 additional co-sponsors, and according to, is similar to bills recently enacted into law in both Montana and Tennessee.

While the bill seems to focus solely on federal gun regulations, it has far more to do with the 10th Amendment’s limit on the power of the federal government.  It specifically states:

The regulation of intrastate commerce is vested in the states under the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, particularly if not expressly preempted by federal law. Congress has not expressly preempted state regulation of intrastate commerce pertaining to the manufacture on an intrastate basis of firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition.

Rohrer, in a recent letter to Pennsylvania House Members, addressed the issue of the commerce clause:

Under the current, expansive interpretation of the Interstate Commerce Clause in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, it is permissible for the federal government to regulate the sale of goods that are manufactured and sold exclusively within a state’s borders. Effectively, the federal courts hold that if a product might possibly find its way into streams of interstate commerce, federal laws to regulate that product are appropriate. The product need not actually be sold between states.

In 1942, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a farmer who was fined by the federal government for growing too much wheat. Effectively, the argument in Wickard v. Filburn was that the wheat he grew and consumed himself would lead to decreased wheat sales in other states, so it fell under federal jurisdiction because of the interstate commerce clause.

As recently as 2005 (Gonzales v. Raich), the U.S. Supreme Court cited Wickard as standing for the proposition that “Congress can regulate purely intrastate activity that is not itself “commercial,” in that it is not produced for interstate sale, if it concludes that failure to regulate that class of activity would undercut the regulation of the interstate market in that commodity.”

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, wheat (in Wickard) and medical marijuana (in Raich) are completely indistinguishable from such products made and sold in interstate commerce, so federal regulation is appropriate.

Under my bill, the policy of this Commonwealth would be that firearms and firearm accessories manufactured and exclusively sold in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, carrying the brand “Made in Pennsylvania” (all clear indicators of intrastate commerce), would be subject only to state law.

The principle behind such legislation is nullification, which has a long history in the American tradition. When a state ‘nullifies’ a federal law, it is proclaiming that the law in question is void and inoperative, or ‘non-effective,’ within the boundaries of that state; or, in other words, not a law as far as the state is concerned.

The rest of the above posting goes on to describe other efforts at States’ rights legislation across the country, including Arizona’s push-back on the feds regarding national health care, as well as initiatives within Florida, Georgia and Minnesota.

Today, the great State of Ohio’s Senate affirmed the 10th Amendment:

By a vote of 19-12 today, the Ohio State Senate passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 13 (SCR13).  (h/t

The resolution seeks to “claim sovereignty over certain powers pursuant to the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, to notify Congress to limit and end certain mandates, and to insist that federal legislation contravening the Tenth Amendment be prohibited or repealed.”

If passed by the House of Representatives, Ohio will become the 8th state to have passed such a resolution in 2009.  Other states that have reaffirmed their sovereignty are Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Tennessee.

While sovereignty resolutions do not carry the force of law behind them, supporters say that they are a long-overdue first step in moving the country towards constitutional government.

Charles Key, state representative from Oklahoma and author of that state’s sovereignty resolution, compared these resolutions to a cease and desist notice a landlord gives a non-paying tenant.

“If you’ve got a tenant that’s not paying rent, you don’t just show up one day with an empty truck,” said Key in a recent interview with the Tenth Amendment Center.  “First, you serve notice.  That’s how we see these resolutions, as a notice to the federal government.  And there defintely will be follow up.”

The follow up that Rep. Key is referring to has been popping up all over the country.  Legislation that calls upon the Jeffersonian principle of “nullification” has already been advancing a number of causes, and some success has been gained, too.

A state-level rebellion to the Bush-era Real ID act has rendered the law virtually null and voidThirteen states have passed various marijuana laws in direct contravention to federal laws.  Two states have passed laws nullifying some federal gun regulations.

Groups in multiple states are pushing their governments to withdraw their state’s guard troops from Iraq and elsewhere. And people in up to 10 states may have the opportunity to vote on state constitutional amendments effectively banning national health care.

The long-term success of all these efforts remain to be seen, especially with a Federal Judiciary which has not often been too friendly to the Constitutional intent of the Founders and Ratifiers.

But, many supporters point to the growing success on issues like Real ID and Medical Marijuana as examples which prove that with enough state-level resistance, the federal government has no option but to back off, with or without judicial approval.

The full text of the resolution can be seen at the link.

Other news related to States’ rights and/or general federal government accountability:


Subscriptions -=- Twitter: @trsol -=- Facebook (TRSoL) -=- Facebook (Rightside Phil)