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Montana Bill Would Give Sheriffs Power to Arrest FBI Agents

Gary Marbut

Look out, FBI.

A Montana bill making its way through the state legislature would give sheriffs the power to arrest federal agents.

Montana gun lobbyist Gary Marbut, who wrote the “Sheriff First” bill, is hoping it manages to clear the Republican-controlled House and Senate and go directly to voters as a referendum in 2014. Supporters say it is a necessary “check on the power of federal law enforcement agencies.”

The core of this direct referendum essentially states says that if a sheriff believes federal law is in conflict with state law, said sheriff could prevent federal agents from enforcing it. So let’s say — hypothetically — FBI agents are under the impression that someone in a sheriff’s county is doing something federally illegal, before they could take any action the would first have to ask the sheriff for permission. If an FBI agent goes through with arresting alleged criminal without consulting local sheriff, her or she could be arrested and charged for kidnapping.

So an agent could be put under arrest … for putting someone under arrest.

Aerial shot of Ranch after Waco Massacre

Aerial shot of the aftermath of the Waco Massacre.

On February 28, 1993, the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms attempted to execute a search warrant on Mount Carmel Center, a ranch in Waco, Texas, belonging to a religious group called that Branch Davidians as part of an investigation into illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Right after the federal agents attempted to serve the warrant, a bloody two-hour gun battle erupted, killing several agents and Davidians. A 50-day FBI siege followed, infamously ending with the place going up in flames as agents mounted a second assault; 76 people died, including women and children.

What does the so-called “Waco Massacre” have to do with the bill set to be voted on in 2014? Marbut argues that the tragedy could have been prevented if the feds would have first gone to the sheriff:

The sheriff could have said, ‘Look, I will call Koresh [leader of Branch Davidians] on the phone and he’ll meet at my office.’

In other words, he argues that taking things to local law enforcement could be more efficient and less messy.

Marbut says the 10th amendment allows states to ignore federal criminal statues as they see fit. With marijuana and gay marriage laws passing in various states, the state-versus-federal-law debate an especially hot topic.

But many critics are particularly worried about how this bill would specifically affect gun laws.

As reported by Reason, some 90 sheriff departments across the U.S. have pledged to not enforce enhanced federal gun laws that they deem unconstitutional. Many Second Amendment advocates argue that federal government can be in violation of the Constitution and that local law-enforcers have the right to reject. 

A Mother Jones article described Marbut as “a prolific lobbyist who has written 58 pro-gun bills.” Marbut’s website reveals he is openly and proudly linked to groups such as the Montana Shooting Sports Association and Firearms Freedom Act movement. Will this bill protect individuals from federal gun Laws to be passed in the future? With the Obama administration attempting to pass gun control laws in light of the recent shooting tragedies, many people wonder if this bill may be an example of a loophole for gun owners.

Take a look at the bill below:

Sheriffs First by

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