Montana Lawmaker: Connecticut Shooting ‘Came At An Opportune Time’ For Sen. Diane Feinstein

Montana Rep. Jerry O'Neil

The Montana lawmaker who earlier this year asked to be paid his legislative salary in gold and silver coins said this week the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut “came at an opportune time” for Sen. Diane Feinstein, since she has been working on an assault weapons ban for years.

In an interview with the right-wing conspiracy theory site WorldNetDaily, state Rep. Jerry O’Neil (R) said he is proposing two amendments to the U.S. Constitution to block Feinstein’s proposal for an assault weapons ban. Neither proposal would affect the Second Amendment, but instead are attempts to shrink the federal government’s ability to solve national problems:

He said that in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution the word “among” would be replaced with “between” so that it reads, “Congress shall have power … to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and interstate commerce between the several states, and with the Indian tribes.” […]

[R]eferring to firearms, he said, “It gives the states the right to make whatever guns they want so long as [firearms] stay inside the own borders.”

[I]n reference to national sovereignty and more specifically the Small Arms Treaty, he wants to insert in Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution the phrase “subject to this Constitution.” It would, therefore, state: “The president … shall have the power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, subject to this Constitution, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”

O’Neil said the insertion is essential because of the growing power of international treaties and the fact that too often, in his opinion, international treaties are implemented and used to override the U.S. Constitution. […]

Feinstein’s move was a reaction to the school shooting in Connecticut in which 20 children and six adults were victims.

O’Neil said, “The Connecticut shooting came at an opportune time for her.”

He added, “Sen. Feinstein has been working on an assault weapons ban for at least eight years.”

It goes without saying that there is nothing “opportune” about a mass shooting of small children, and that the “opportune time” for gun control reform would have been long before any violence occurred. What’s more, O’Neil’s proposed constitutional changes are, at best, nonsensical and, at worst, could profoundly cripple American democracy. The U.S. Supreme Court has already made clear that the Constitution trumps any treaty, and that treaties are void to the extent they violate the Constitution. So O’Neil’s proposed change to the federal treaty power would likely do nothing at all.

The same cannot be said, however, about his proposed change to America’s power to regulate its national economy. By enabling Congress to regulate commerce “among the several states,” the Constitution empowers the United States to enact economic regulations that “concern[] more States than one.” This is the basis for a wide range of essential laws, including the minimum wage, national child labor laws and the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters. O’Neil’s proposal could potentially reduce this power into something that would only allow federal laws regulating transactions between one state government and another, endangering most of the progress of the last 100 years in the process.

At the very least, O’Neil’s proposals fan the flames of hysteria about gun control that have prompted some 21,000 people to sign a White House petition accusing Feinstein of treason for proposing to renew a limited ban on the most dangerous weapons that was passed by another Congress less than 20 years ago.