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January 26, 2023

SHOT Show Rewind: Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen Proud to Lead on Second Amendment

By Matt Manda

Antigun attorneys general like New York’s Democratic Attorney General Letitia James and California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta are perennial antagonists of the lawful and Constitutionally-protected firearm industry.

Fortunately for gun manufacturers, distributors, retailers and law-abiding Second Amendment enthusiasts, there’s Republican Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen. AG Knudsen joined NSSF’s Larry Keane on SHOT TV to discuss his efforts to lead the fight on behalf of Montanans against regulations and laws that restrict their rights.

Shipping Company Shenanigans

A recent focal point for AG Knudsen has been discriminatory policies by shipping and financial industry businesses towards the firearm industry. Moves by FedEx, UPS and other shipping companies to enact “woke” boardroom discriminatory policies against lawful businesses is increasingly common, Knudsen said.

He previously told Fox Business, “What this looks to me, and a lot my colleagues, is the [Biden] administration … can’t get more gun control passed through the Senate and through the House. And so what they’re trying to do is pressure their friends in large business to do it for them.”

To get some answers, AG Knudsen spearheaded a letter to Fedex and UPS asking them to clarify their new policies. He told Keane his efforts garnered attention, fast.

“Yeah we definitely put a shot across their bow when we found out they were actively discriminating against firearm businesses, FFL holders,” AG Knudsen said. “We got a pretty quick response. They’re wanting to meet and get together and say ‘Not us – we didn’t do it!’”

AG Knudsen discussed his similar efforts in pushing back against major banks for similar policies, including new efforts by credit card companies to track firearm industry-related purchases through newly-instituted Merchant Category Codes (MCC).

AG Knudsen reminded listeners of his background.

“It’s frustrating, Larry. I come from the legislature. I was the state Speaker of the House for Montana. I understand how to make law,” he explained. “Apparently many of these businesses, the legislators on the Left and the White House don’t understand that because they know full well they cannot get a lot of their agenda through the U.S. Congress – they don’t have the votes.”

Taking The Fight to Court

Keane praised AG Knudsen’s continued effort to go to bat for the firearm industry by submitting amicus briefs in support of industry businesses. One recent example was an amicus brief filed in a case against AG James challenging New York’s unconstitutional public nuisance law that seeks to assign blame to out-of-state firearm manufacturers and retailers for the criminal misuse of firearms by criminals in New York.

“This is all an attempt to have an end-run around the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” Keane noted, adding that one of the plaintiffs is an NSSF retailer member from Montana.

“I’m a gun guy and this is what I do. A lot of those plaintiffs and a lot of those businesses in Montana… I talk to them and they come to me, so this is a no-brainer to me,” AG Knudsen said. “These are flagrantly unconstitutional. A state does not get to regulate interstate commerce. That’s Constitutional Law 101.”

On the absurdity of assigning blame for crimes to a lawful firearm business rather than to the criminal, AG Knudsen was quick and clear.

“It’s so frustrating to me – who is more law-abiding than a federal firearms license holder? Those people are literally the most heavily regulated industry in the country. When you have an administration that keeps piling on more and more and more and then flagrantly overreaching, that’s when you’re going to have states like Montana step in.”

Agency Overreach

Keane and AG Knudsen also thoroughly discussed the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year that struck down the EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, finding that the EPA, as an administrative agency, doesn’t have the legal authority to make their own laws – that’s the role of Congress.

That Supreme Court ruling will have tremendous implications for other agencies’ rulemaking agendas, most specifically to the firearm industry the recent Final Rule published by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on defining what constitutes a frame and receiver, expanding the definition of “machinegun” to include non-mechanical bump stocks  and also defining AR-pistols equipped with stabilizing arm braces as short-barreled rifles under the 1968 Gun Control Act and the 1934 National Firearms Act.

“The EPA decision isn’t one we as gun people pay attention to – but we should,” AG Knudsen said. “The Supreme Court told an agency, ‘Hey – you don’t get to make the law, you get to execute the law that Congress passes. That is going to be applied to the ATF. That is why I’ve teed up a lot of these lawsuits.”

To listen to the full SHOT TV discussion with Montana General Attorney Austin Knudsen, click here.

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