S.B.11, also known as the Utah State-Made Firearms Protection Act, was passed by both houses of the state legislature and was sent to the governor for signature. However, Governor Gary Herbert is considering vetoing the bill. Here’s what it does:
- addresses the legal status of a firearm manufactured in the state for use within the state;
- defines terms; provides that a firearm or one of various firearm-related items manufactured in the state for in-state use is not subject to federal firearms laws and regulations;
- exempts from in-state manufacturing some firearms and ammunition;
- and requires certain markings on a firearm manufactured in the state for use within the state.
Mostly Democrats voted against it, claiming that the bill would be found unconstitutional and would waste state money during defense in court. Money that we do not have because of the economy and budget shortfalls. They point to the law suit that the state of Montana is currently involved in, but they overlook one point – a pair of indipendent lawyers sued the federal government, the feds have not sued the state, so the suit is costing the state nothing. Supporters of the bill claimed that it’s less about firearms and more about states’ rights (I’m sure they mean state powers and sovereignty, because states don’t have rights).
Basically, this bill is about Utah saying, “What happens in Utah stays in Utah.”
A bill with a similar philosophy has been introduced to protect Utah land. H.B. 143 had made it out of committee but has not yet been voted on in the House. The issue at hand is eminent domain and it goes all the way back to 1894, two years before Utah was admitted as a state. Currently, almost 60% of Utah’s land is owned by the federal government. According to Henry Lamb,
As a condition of statehood, the citizens of Utah were required to “…forever disclaim right and title to unappropriated public lands.” In the same July 16, 1894 Enabling Act, the federal government agreed to grant four sections of every township, and various other grants of land, to the state to provide permanent funding for schools and other government purposes.
I won’t go into the history of Utah’s becoming a state, save to say that at one point, in an attempt to force the people of Utah into submission, the federal government threatened to dissolve the Utah Territory and divide it between Idaho and Arizona. The rest of Mr. Lambs article is very insightful so I’ll direct you there to read up on the issue of land rights.
So again, the issue is state sovereignty and powers. If the feds haven’t owned up to their end of the bargain, and if they’re in violation of the U.S. Constitution (which only gives the federal .gov the right to own the land of the D.C. – see U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 17), then they can’t tell the people of Utah how their public lands are to be used (for instance the President creating a national monument to please environmentalists, while destroying the local economy).
Utah has never really liked the federal government. And I don’t see why that should change.