The mass shooting in Las Vegas has predictably reignited the gun control debate. Some lawmakers in Washington are again urging Congress to pass laws tightening gun restrictions. Idaho lawmakers have historically opposed such measures and seven years ago passed a law that they hoped would protect Idaho gun owners from stricter federal laws.
The Idaho Legislature in 2010 passed the law “Prohibition of Federal Regulation of Certain Firearms.” The law declared that some guns completely manufactured in Idaho and that remain in Idaho are exempt from any future federal regulations.
In 2010, lawmakers behind the bill intended it to be a protection for Idaho gun owners in the event that Congress passed more restrictive firearms laws.
Some types of firearms, such as machine guns or rocket launchers, were excluded from the Idaho law and would still be under federal regulations. The law states firearms, firearms accessories, or any ammunition that was manufactured in Idaho and remained in Idaho fall outside any federal law or federal regulation.
However, constitutional law professor at the University of Idaho Shaakirrah Sanders say those protections may not hold up as intended.
“In general federal laws will exceed state laws, even state constitutional laws can be superseded by federal law,” Sanders said.
In 2010, when some lawmakers reached out to the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, Deputy Attorney General Ken Jorgensen warned lawmakers the statute was likely unconstitutional.
“Idaho seems to think that they can just say if it's made in Idaho it’s not an interstate commerce. The interpretation of the Constitution clause does not support Idaho's position on that,” Sanders said.
Jorgensen wrote that it’s an issue that would have to be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It's very hard to see a situation where section 3315A would somehow trump federal law without a court making a determination,” Sanders said.
Congress has moved recently to loosen federal restrictions on silencers. The vote was expected to come this week. Sen. Mike Crapo’s office tells KTVB the bill was tabled for the time being.