A pair of conservative state lawmakers criticized for endorsing the creation of a state militia have won final approval of their bill to exempt Oklahoma-made firearms and ammunition from federal regulations. Opponents fear the bill might extend to silencers and machine guns and ultimately endanger law enforcement officers.
The Oklahoma House voted 81-14 on Tuesday for the “Oklahoma Firearms Freedom Act,” sponsored by state Rep. Charles Key and Sen. Randy Brogdon, an Owasso Republican and gubernatorial candidate.
The bill says firearms, gun accessories or ammunition produced in Oklahoma would not be subject to interstate commerce laws and federal regulations if the items remain in the state. The bill does not apply to certain large firearms and exploding ammunition.
The measure, which cleared the Senate on a 39-3 vote, now heads to Democratic Gov. Brad Henry, who has not said whether he will sign it.
Key, R-Oklahoma City, argued the Constitution leaves to states the right to regulate intrastate commerce, and that the bill is intended to protect Oklahomans’ right to keep and bear arms.
“Most people favor protecting their constitutional rights,” Key said.
Rep. Paul Roan, a former state trooper and one of 14 Democrats who opposed the bill, expressed concern that accessories like silencers and converter switches used to fully automate machine guns would be legalized under the bill.
“You can make any part you want to for a weapon and as long as it’s made here in Oklahoma, it’s legal,” said Roan, D-Tishomingo. “If this bill would pass and become law, it would make law enforcement in Oklahoma a very dangerous job.”
A similar bill was first enacted in Montana; South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming have followed suit.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sparked a court challenge in Montana when it told all licensed gun dealers in the state last year that they were still bound by federal gun regulations. The Montana Shooting Sports Association and other pro-gun groups sued.
A U.S. Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment Tuesday, but the department has alleged in court filings that the Montana plaintiffs lack standing and that enactment of federal firearms laws are a valid exercise of congressional power to regulate commerce under the Constitution.
Joseph Thai, a constitutional law professor at the University of Oklahoma, said the “firearms freedom” laws wouldn’t withstand a constitutional challenge.
“If Oklahoma can exempt local firearms manufacturing and sales from federal law, then it can also exempt local hotels and restaurants from federal anti-discrimination laws,” Thai said. “The state can do neither.”
He said the measure’s passage “will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands in litigation costs by the time it’s struck down in federal court.”
Key and Brogdon drew criticism last week after telling The Associated Press they supported the activation of a new state militia. Both have since retreated from those comments.