Montana clears bill that would allow sheriffs to arrest federal agents

Nicole Lafond Contributor
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If the proposed — and constitutionally dubious — “Sheriffs First” bill is passed by citizens in Montana next year, federal agents who try to make an arrest in the state could themselves be arrested and charged with kidnapping.

A Montana state committee last week cleared the bill, which would require federal agents to get permission from the county sheriff before taking any law enforcement steps against Montanans, Mother Jones reported.

If the bill is passed, it will be a ballot question in November 2014.

The bill proposal, written by Gary Marbut, a gun rights activist and president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, passed through both legislative houses in 2011 but was vetoed by then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer. He has written 58 pro-gun bills that have made it into law.

Marbut said he wrote the law to give a sheriff the power to prevent federal agents from enforcing laws that are in conflict with state laws, such as federal regulation of in-state gun manufacturing.

He acknowledges in the proposal that there will be some instances in which the federal government should act without local permission, such as high-speed chases.

And, speaking through a representative to The Daily Caller, Marbut denied that the bill runs afoul of the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which states that enforceable federal laws trump state laws when in conflict. Marbut maintained that the Tenth Amendment reserves to states the sole authority to police their land, even though decades of Supreme Court case law suggest otherwise.

But if the law is passed, it would likely be ruled unconstitutional, according to a variety of legal experts, including retired ATF agent William Vizzard.

“[The bill] will be destructive to relations between state and federal law enforcement,” Vizzard told Mother Jones. “If some yahoo sheriff tried [to enforce the potential law] the federal courts will slap them down,” he said.

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Nicole Lafond