Firearms Freedom Act

Dakota Digest - 07/06/2010

By Jackelyn Severin 

Last legislative session lawmakers passed South Dakota's version of the Firearms Freedom Act which, as of July first, is now law. The Firearms Freedom Act states that any firearm made and manufactured in South Dakota shall not be subject to federal regulations. Today's Dakota Digest explores the significance of this act and problems that it could cause for individuals.
Brandon Maddox has a pharmacy degree from The University North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a MBA from Duke. He is going on 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry and he is also one of South Dakota's largest manufacturers of silencers.
Maddox bought his first silencer on whim after he went varmint hunting.
"If you're varmint hunting all day the rounds can be loud and it's just cumbersome to shoot without it with all the noise," says Maddox
Maddox found that there were not a lot of silencer manufactures in South Dakota and those who did sell them often could get away with jacking up the price to 15 percent above retail. So he decided to get a license and start manufacturing them himself.
"I would say 99 percent of my sales to people in South Dakota is for varmint hunting, so they put it on rifles," says Maddox, "I know people think silencers they think pistols, or gangsters but here it's mainly for rifles."
Maddox says silencers are beneficial in many ways especially for protecting against hearing damage.
Because Maddox is a Federally Licensed dealer he has to abide by all regulations under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and anyone buying a silencer from Maddox has to as well. Besides sending in fingerprints and a sheriff's signature a person wanting a silencer is subject to background check and a 200 dollar fee. Maddox says the entire permit process takes about 4 months.
He says it would be great if he could start making and manufacturing silencers under South Dakota's current law. Maddox believes in lessening gun regulations overall. Silencers cost anywhere from 300 dollars to 1,000 dollars a pop so Maddox could be making a lot of money if he could circumvent the federal permit process.
"When people call me they are like gosh you've got a lot of name recognition with your product you're the number one silencer dealer in the state you know I've got a machine shop here let's start churning these out. We could probably sell a couple hundred a day, there's no 200 dollar tax on it, no sheriff signature you can get them the same day, think of how much money we could make. And I'm like no it's not worth it."
Maddox says it's not worth it because under the NFA it is a criminal offense to engage in business as a firearms manufacturer or deal firearms or accessories without registering them with the federal government. It's also a criminal offense to receive or posses a firearm that is in violation of the NFA. Some of the penalties are up to 10 years in a federal prison, revoked of the right to own a gun and 10,000 dollar fines.
Maddox also says that because there is fee for registering a gun those abiding under the state law could be considered for tax evasion.
The first state to pass the Firearms Freedom Act is Montana. Montana is also suing the U.S. Attorney General. Jeffery T. Renz represents the Montana State Legislators in the case. Renz says this act is not about getting anybody into trouble it is about state's rights.
"From the states perspective if it can identify a class of things that are not going to move into interstate commerce then it ought to be free to regulate and those things ought to be free from federal regulation," says Renz

South Dakota State Representative Manny Steele of Sioux Falls is one of the many lawmakers who signed onto the bill here.
"We want our rights back basically is what it's saying," says Steele, "We want our rights that are states rights controlled by the state only."
What Steele and Renz are talking about is the Tenth Amendment or the "Commerce Clause" which says that anything made in a state that does not cross state lines should not be subject to federal regulation.  Renz says the purpose of the Firearms Freedom Act was not to urge people to start making their own firearms.
Because Maddox is a state's rights advocate he hopes Montana wins the case in court.  But he thinks someone should have explained that to the people of South Dakota.
Maddox says, "I can see from a communications standpoint no one wants to get up and sort of articulate the concerns of the issues because you might be seen as anti-guns and then I think a reason why it wasn't discussed too much in the legislature is no one wanted to be seen as anti-guns or anti-state rights."
Maddox is concerned a South Dakota citizen is going to innocently follow state law and get into trouble with the federal government. Representative Steele understands this apprehension. But Steele says people should not shy away from exercising their freedoms.
Steele says, "We should push in anyway we can to get laws passed that give our states our rights back."
Steele says that on every bill dealing with state's rights he makes sure that he has the backing of the State's Attorney General and in this case he does but the attorney general represents the state not individuals. For Maddox he is not going to take any chances until the Montana lawsuit is finished. He's advising everyone else to do the same.




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