Doesn’t the commerce clause give the federal government the authority to limit the sale and manufacture of firearms?


Article 1 Sec. 8 empowers the federal government to regulate trade between the states, but it was never intended to give the feds the authority to regulate all economic activity. Commerce was narrowly defined by the founding generation. Commerce related specifically to trade and related activities. Not manufacturing. Not agriculture. Certainly not every activity affecting the economy. And the federal commerce power is limited to trade crossing state borders. Its primary purpose was to allow the federal government to facilitate commerce between states and prevent trade wars from breaking out within the U.S. borders. Madison explained the relatively narrow scope of commerce power.

“It is very certain that [the commerce clause] grew out of the abuse of the power by the importing States in taxing the non-importing, and was intended as a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States themselves, rather than as a power to be used for the positive purposes of the General Government.” 

You could argue that the commerce clause does empower the feds to restrict and regulate the sale of guns, ammunition and gun related accessories across state lines. That’s where the Second Amendment comes in. It supersedes the commerce clause. Keep in mind the purpose of the Bill of Rights as stated in the Preamble.

The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution. 

The Bill of Rights was ratified to further define restrictions on federal power. So in essence, the Second Amendment says, “Hey, federal government – even while exercising legitimate power to regulate interstate commerce, you still may not infringe on the basic right to keep and bear arms.”

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