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Plaintiffs Appeal Firearms Freedom Act Ruling to the Ninth Circuit

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Plaintiffs in litigation to validate the principles of the Montana Firearms Freedom Act (MFFA) have appealed an expected but adverse federal district court decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs in MSSA v. Holder include the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA), the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and MSSA President Gary Marbut of Missoula.

The MFFA is designed to test the power of Congress to regulate everything without limits under the narrow power given to Congress in the Constitution to "regulate commerce … among the states." The MFFA declares that any firearms, ammunition and firearm accessories made and retained in Montana are not subject to any federal authority under the Commerce Clause. Congress must find some authority among the Constitution's "enumerated powers" for every action it takes.

Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit MSSA v. Holder on the day the MFFA became effective in Montana, October 1, 2009. Since the MFFA enactment in Montana, the MFFA has been cloned and enacted in seven other states, and FFA bills have been introduced in the legislatures of 20 more states.

In a judgment entered on October 19, 2010, the district court granted the U.S. Motion to Dismiss. It is this judgment that is now appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

MSSA President and plaintiff Gary Marbut commented, "We've known all along that the district court will not provide what we seek, the reversal of a half-century of bad Commerce Clause precedent. We need to get to the U.S. Supreme Court for that. This notice of appeal puts us at the 50-yard line in our quest to get to the Supreme Court - it is a big step in the direction we need to go."

Not only has the FFA concept attracted the interest and support of many other states frustrated with an overbearing federal government, but the MSSA v. Holder lawsuit has attracted an unusual, perhaps record, number of amici (amicus curiae, friends of the court). Some qualified observers say they've never seen a case that has attracted as much amici support at the district court level as this case has. Amici include the State of Utah (also representing several other states), Gun Owners Foundation (Gun Owners of America), the Goldwater Institute of Arizona, the Paragon Foundation of New Mexico, the Weapons Collectors Society of Montana, an amicus group of Montana legislators who supported the MFFA, and another amicus group of non-Montana legislators who sponsored or co-sponsored FFA bills in other states. The State of Montana has also intervened in support of the MFFA. Other amici are expected to enter in support of the MFFA when the lawsuit is argued before Ninth Circuit.

"It is totally obvious from the positions of federal participants, both lawyers and judges for the U.S.," Marbut commented, "that the federal establishment definitely, almost desperately, wishes to prevent this issue from having a trial on merit."

The likely options for the Ninth Circuit are to uphold the judgment of the district court or to overrule the district court and remand the case back to the district court for trial. Regardless of what action is taken by the Ninth Circuit, MSSA v. Holder is certain to be appealed to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court only reviews the district court dismissal on appeal to it, the Supreme Court can still rule on the merits of the case since part of the grounds for dismissal is based on merit.

Released by Sen. Dave Schultheis
Senate District 9
Colorado Springs, CO