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Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and six other states filed a brief in federal court in Montana on Monday, arguing that the federal government has no constitutional authority to regulate firearms manufactured and sold within their borders.

The friend-of-the-court brief seeks to bolster arguments made by the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA) that legislation passed in that state exempts Montana-made guns from federal taxation, registration, licensing, marking or record-keeping requirements.

Utah adopted similar legislation last session. Tennessee, Arizona, Idaho, South Dakota and Wyoming have done so as well, asserting it as an exercise of their authority under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The brief asks that court to recognize that “the 10th Amendment is not an empty promise to the states, but a vital guarantor of rights retained by the states, including the right to regulate purely intrastate activities.”

Alabama, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming joined in the Utah brief.

The U.S. Justice Department has asked the Montana court to dismiss the lawsuit filed by MSSA, arguing that the federal government has the authority to regulate gun sales under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

Attorneys for Utah legislators warned that Utah’s firearms law was likely unconstitutional. Gov. Gary Herbert grappled with whether to sign it, but chose to do so after he was assured that litigation costs would not be burdensome.

Numerous other organizations also have sought to submit briefs supporting the Montana law. The court has given entities until April 23 to file their briefs. The Justice Department will have until May 18 to file a response.

“With few viable avenues to assert their political will,” Shurtleff’s brief says, “states that have enacted laws similar to Montana’s Firearms Freedom Act are clamoring to restore the proper balance between state and federal government power.”

Source: Robert Gehrke for The Salt Lake Tribune.

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