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Interview with Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association

SS: What is the Montana Firearms Freedom Act?


GM: The Montana Firearms Freedom Act (MFFA) is a law effective in the state of Montana on 1 October, 2009, declaring that all firearms, firearms accessories and ammunition made and retained in Montana are exempt from federal authority under the power of Congress to regulate “commerce among the several states.” The same day the MFFA became effective, we filed a lawsuit in federal court in order to validate the principles of this new Montana law. The purpose of our lawsuit is to make this legal challenge to federal authority in civil court, before it becomes a criminal matter, such as with someone actually making such a gun, marking it “Made in Montana” and being charged criminally by federal authorities for manufacture without a federal license.


SS: Why is this taking place?


GM: The basic argument is that the original commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution only regulates commerce among the several states, in order to keep the states on a level playing field. However, the commerce clause was amended by the passage of the Tenth Amendment, which provides that those rights not specifically enumerated to the federal government are reserved for the states or to the people. The Tenth Amendment also works as an amending of the commerce clause, so it should take precedence over the previous version of that law.


SS: Without that last-trumps principle, a law could never be changed, once enacted.


GM: Correct. Additionally, there is another concept, known as “emerging consensus,” in which the mood of the general public and the states on a subject is being put forward by legislatures. Under emerging consensus, the courts tend to pay attention to what the public wants when it comes to a given subject. In this case, emerging consensus means support for state-produced arms and ammunition that are meant strictly for local, in-state consumption, unregulated by the federal government.


SS: How does this apply to the MFFA?


GM: “Made in Montana” means that the gun or ammunition doesn’t leave the state and is solely for use within the state. In other words, it doesn’t move in interstate commerce and is therefore not subject to Congress’ commerce clause power or federal regulation. The item is made for domestic consumption only and not for export. If an out-of-state resident were to acquire a “Made in Montana” gun, he would have to leave it in Montana when he returned to his home state. That gun would be subject to seizure by the federal authorities as contraband outside of Montana.


SS: Could an out-of-state resident apply for an export license and then pay the federal excise taxes?


GM: No, because the maker of the gun himself would have to have a federal license to make the gun as a federal firearms manufacturer, in order for the gun to be exportable, which is not addressed under the MFFA law. Everything under the Montana law would not be subject to federal jurisdiction, including the maker himself.


SS: Is this the concept that is in court?


GM: Yes. The federal government’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) has “misunderstood” the MFFA, refuses to understand it, and has issued a warning letter to all of its licensees in Montana that federal laws supercede state laws in this matter and they must comply with the federal laws, even if the guns are made, sold or transferred, and remain in the state of Montana. Our state law (the MFFA) does not apply to federal firearms licensees because their making, selling, transferring, storing (possessing) or distributing such guns, ammunition or accessories require a national market, which involves selling in interstate commerce.


SS: This brings up serious constitutional questions. Is this exclusive to Montana?


GM: No, this concept has infected more than a few other states. CBS News has pegged it as a national “movement.” Tennessee has actually passed a clone of our Montana law. Other clones are introduced and pending legislation in Alaska, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah. It is proposed legislation, scheduled to be introduced in the next legislative session, in a dozen other states, Colorado being one of them.


SS: Is there any way other citizens can address this movement? Where could they go in order to obtain more information?


GM: Yes there is. Anyone can visit: FirearmsFreedomAct.com


SS: Is this site interactive?


GM: Yes it is. I am pooling FFA movement information there and information may be contributed or obtained there. Data are being accumulated at that site, and the information is publicly available.


SS: Do you have any other advice for people interested in this national movement?


GM: Yes, look at the colored map on the FFA website. If your state is not already poised to introduce an MFFA clone, find a state legislator to introduce the bill. There’s model language on the Website. If your state has introduced a bill or is already poised to introduce, go your the state capitol when the bill is up for public hearing and speak in favor of the bill.


SS: Gary, Thank you for all of your hard work.


GM: You are welcome.


SS: On another subject, were you involved in getting the Department of Defense order to destroy once-fired small arms brass rescinded?


GM: Absolutely. Georgia Arms and MSSA both worked on that. Within 48 hours of the DoD order, I persuaded Montana‘s two U.S. senators to send a memo to DoD asking that the order be reversed. DoD rescinded the order immediately, in part because Montana‘s senior Senator, Max Baucus, chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which must approve the Pentagon’s budget. While Baucus has a history of some critical anti-gun votes, those votes created such a stir in Montana that he’s now trying hard to work with us, witness his prompt and effective response to the ordered military brass destruction.


Gary Marbut is the president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, the primary political advocate for gun owners and hunters in Montana. Under Gary‘s leadership, MSSA has gotten 53 pro-gun and pro-hunting bills enacted in Montana in the past 25 years. Gary is a veteran firearms instructor and consults as an expert in state and federal courts concerning firearms safety, self defense, use of force and related topics. Gary shoots competitively in the disciplines of practical pistol and long range precision rifle.



SOF endorses the following individuals for election to the NRA Board of Directors:

Steve Schreiner, Bob Sanders, Jim Porter, Tom King and retired Texas Ranger, Joaquin Jackson.