CHARLESTON - A local legislator has sponsored a bill known as the West Virginia Firearms Freedom Act, which declares that any firearms made and retained in-state would be beyond the authority of Congress under its constitutional power to regulate commerce among the states.
Sen. Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, is the lead sponsor for Senate Bill No. 76, one of dozens of Firearms Freedom Acts introduced or enacted in state legislatures around the country.
Other sponsors for the legislation include Sen. Daniel J. Hall, D-Wyoming., Sen. Evan H. Jenkins, R-Cabell and Sen. Bob Williams, D-Taylor.
Sen. Dave Sypolt
The bill states that the purpose of the bill is to exempt firearms, a firearm accessory, or ammunition manufactured and retained in West Virginia, from federal regulation under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution of the United States.
"SB 76 is intended to provide a clear message to manufacturers worldwide that West Virginia is ready and willing to do business with firearm manufacturers," Sypolt said in an email interview with The Inter-Mountain.
Sypolt said that this bill would promote economic growth for the state as well as embracing the history of the state.
"In this weakened state of economy and diminishing revenue for our state, it is critically important to keep as many options open for future development and job growth," he said. "Also, expanding firearm manufacturing in the Mountain State seems like a perfectly natural fit for our historical embrace of firearms used for shooting sports and self defense."
Sypolt also said that education is key moving forward if the bill is passed.
"Obviously, educating the public and manufacturing community is of utmost importance," he said. "There must be no mistake or misunderstanding that this bill, if passed into law, cannot, and will not, supersede or somehow override the special agents of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives jurisdiction of Federal laws and regulation."
The legislation includes exceptions, including a firearm that cannot be carried and used by one person, or a firearm that has a bore diameter greater than 1.5 inches and that uses smokeless powder instead of black powder as a propellant.
Other exemptions spelled out in the legislation are ammunition with a projectile that explodes using chemical energy after the projectile leaves the firearm, and, other than shotguns, a firearm that discharges two or more projectiles with one activation of the trigger or other firing device.
Any firearm manufactured in West Virginia under the provisions of this legislation must also clearly have the phrase "Made in West Virginia" stamped on a central metallic part of the gun, such as the receiver or frame.
Firearm accessories are considered to be any item that is used in conjunction with a firearm or is mounted upon it. These items are not essential to the functionality of the firearm, and can include, but are not limited to, telescopic or laser sights, magazines, flash or sound suppressors, folding or aftermarket stocks and grips, speedloaders, ammunition carriers and light for target illumination.
"Manufactured in the state" means that the firearm, accessory or ammunition have been created using basic materials for functional usefulness such as forging, casting, machining or any other process for working materials into a complete functional device from component parts.
This legislation was introduced on Jan. 8 and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. A version of the Firearms Freedom Act has been passed in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.
The Firearms Freedom Act legislation efforts across the country are "primarily a Tenth Amendment challenge to the powers of Congress under the 'commerce clause,' with firearms as the object it is a state's rights exercise," according to the firearmsfreedomact.com website.