A North Texas Lawmaker Wants to Exempt "Made in Texas" Guns From Federal Law

According to statistics kept by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, there are several dozen licensed gun manufacturers in the state of Texas.

Most of those are small-scale operations, individuals or mom-and-pop-style shops that produce one or two pistols or rifles in a year. A small handful -- Bond Arms in Granbury; STI International in Georgetown; Maverick Arms in Eagle Pass -- produce them by the thousands.

Right now, the guns those manufacturers churn out are fully subject to federal gun laws under the general authority of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to regulate things that affect interstate commerce. But what if gun and ammo were manufactured and sold in Texas, never crossing state lines?

State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Murphy, wants to find out. She filed a bill on Friday that would exempt Texas-made firearms -- they would henceforth be required to "have the words 'Made in Texas' clearly stamped on a central metallic part," per the bill -- from federal law. Laubenberg's proposal goes to great lengths to preempt any potential federal claim by claiming that raw materials (e.g. unmachined steel) and "generic and insignificant" parts (e.g. bolts, screws and pins) imported from other states can be used without triggering Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause.

This is the same tortured, legalistic workaround that drove Texas' employed in its ill-fated attempt to revive the incandescent light bulb. The difference is, in this case there are already firearms manufacturers in Texas who, if the law were passed, would no longer be required to obtain a license from the ATF, stamp a serial number on the gun, or perform a required federal background check on the buyer.

Nor is Laubenberg's measure unprecedented. Montana passed a similar law a couple of years ago that was successfully challenged in federal court, since the Commerce Clause has historically been defined rather broadly. The case is currently under appeal.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson