A growing list of states joining the legal battle over federal gun control argued Monday that Congress can’t regulate guns made and sold within a state.

The argument over gun control, sparked with the “firearm freedoms act” first enacted in Montana and subsequently in other states, is leading to a constitutional showdown over the reach of Congress into state borders.

A total of seven states filed “friend of the court” briefs by Monday’s deadline to do so. And the Montana attorney general also is seeking to intervene in a lawsuit first filed by gun advocates in U.S. District Court in Missoula.

“The American people and the several states created the federal government, and they now want the federal government constrained to the proper role for which it was created,” said Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association that launched the lawsuit. “This is a forward step for freedom that has always been at the heart of who we are in America.”

Utah, Alabama, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wyoming and West Virginia all signed on to the lawsuit. The states argue that the U.S. Constitution gives them the right to control activities inside state borders, and they want the authority to do so under the firearms freedom acts advancing around the country.

“These laws are intended to allow their respective citizens to engage within their states in constitutionally protected activity without burdensome federal oversight and regulation of their solely intrastate activities,” Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff wrote on behalf of the states.

Gun advocates, who filed the lawsuit last year after the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives warned that gun dealers were still bound by federal regulations, want a court declaration preventing federal agents from enforcing federal gun laws on Montana-made equipment.

The U.S. Department of Justice has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying states can’t exempt themselves from national gun control laws. The agency says that federal gun control is a “valid exercise of Congress’ commerce power under the Constitution.”

Source: Matt Gouras for The Salt Lake Tribune AP

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