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Although they may more often be inconvenienced by snowy weather, more Americans tend to say they are satisfied with their standard of living in cold northern states—including North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Alaska—than in other regions, according to a new Gallup poll.
While residents in former Gov. Sarah Palin’s Alaska registered one of the highest rates of satisfaction with their standard of living, residents in Nevada, which is represented in the Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid, registered the lowest rate of satisfaction out of all 50 states.
Over the course of 2009, Gallup asked more than 350,000 Americans across all 50 states this question: “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your standard of living, all the things you can buy and do?” A higher percentage of residents in northern states tended to say they were satisfied, with five of the Top 10 states bordering on Canada.
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Thank You, Vytautas
Gary Marbut isn’t aiming to eliminate federal gun laws. He just wants to make them much less relevant.
Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, is one of the leaders of a new grassroots movement that’s seeking to invoke the principle of states’ rights — including states’ own authority to regulate firearms — to thwart what he and his allies view as an increasingly overreaching federal government.
Politicians in Washington have “assumed power that many of us believe was not authorized under the limits of the Constitution,” Marbut said in an interview with CBSNews.com last week.
This modern-day federalist revolt began with a Montana state law recently signed by Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer. It says that firearms, ammunition, and accessories manufactured entirely inside Montana are not subject to federal regulation, including background checks for buyers and record-keeping requirements for sellers. They would remain subject to state regulation.
The law, which does not permit the manufacture of certain large-caliber weapons or machine guns, takes effect on October 1, 2009.
Montana is hardly alone: the Tennessee legislature has approved a nearly-identical bill, and others are pending in Texas, Alaska, Minnesota, and South Carolina. About 10 other states, including Florida and Arizona, are reportedly considering similar measures, and a Colorado state legislator has publicly pledged to follow suit.
While this federalism-inspired revolt has coalesced around gun rights, the broader goal is to dust off a section of the Bill of Rights that most Americans probably have paid scant attention to: the Tenth Amendment. It says that “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The Tenth Amendment states that the federal government’s powers are limited only to what it has been “delegated,” and the U.S. Supreme Court in 1918 confirmed that the amendment “carefully reserved” some authority “to the states.” That view is echoed by statements made at the time the Constitution was adopted; New Hampshire explicitly said that states kept “all powers not expressly and particularly delegated” to the federal government.
The states “never gave the federal judiciary permission to erase the Tenth Amendment from the Constitution,” Marbut said. “We need to reacquaint them with the Tenth Amendment.”
Marbut says he plans a test case in federal court that would use the example of a Montana resident without a federal firearms license seeking to manufacture a made-in-Montana gun. “We can get this clarified,” he said. “I do not want any Montana citizen to face federal prison time.”
“It’s great PR for us,” says Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Bellevue, Wash.-based Second Amendment Foundation. “It’s keeping gun owners across the country excited and energized. It’s a way of taking the offensive when normally gun owners are on the defensive.”
The stakes are higher, of course, than just gun rights. If the judiciary somehow breathes new life into the Tenth Amendment, and curbs federal regulation of commerce taking place entirely within a state, that would let states bypass innumerable federal rules on everything from pharmaceuticals to children’s toys.
“It’s a response to federal overreaching,” Gottlieb says. “A lot of people supporting this cause couldn’t care less about firearms. They don’t want the Obama administration dictating what states can and can’t do. It’s a pushback against federal authority in general.”
From Texas to Hawaii, these groups are fighting to secede.
American secessionist groups today range from small startups with a few laptop computers to organized movements with meetings of delegates from several states.
The Middlebury Institute, a group that studies and supports the general cause of separatism and secessionism in the U.S., has held three Secession Congresses since its founding in 2004.
At the most recent gathering, held in New Hampshire last November, one discussion focused on creating a new federation potentially to be called “Novacadia,” consisting of present-day New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. An article highlighted on the group’s Web site describes Denmark as a role-model for the potential country. In the months following the convention, the idea “did not actually evolve into very much,” says Kirkpatrick Sale, the institute’s director.
Below the Mason-Dixon Line, groups like the League of the South and Southern National Congress hold meetings of delegates. They discuss secession as a way of accomplishing goals like protecting the right to bear arms and tighter immigration policies. The Texas Nationalist Movement claims that over 250,000 Texans have signed a form affirming the organization’s goal of a Texas nation.
A religious group, Christian Exodus, formed in 2003 with the purpose of transforming what is today South Carolina into a sovereign, Christian-run state. According to a statement on its Web site, the group still supports the idea, but has learned that “the chains of our slavery and dependence on Godless government have more of a hold on us than can be broken by simply moving to another state.”
On the West Coast, elected officials representing greater San Diego County, Imperial County and Northern Baja, Mexico, have proposed creating a “mega-region” of the three areas called “Cali Baja, a Bi-National Mega-Region.”
Hawaii is home to numerous groups that work toward the goal of sovereignty, including Nation of Hawaii. The group argues that native Hawaiians were colonized and forced into statehood against their will and without fair process, and therefore have the right to decide how to govern themselves today. In Alaska, the Alaska Independence Party advocates for the state’s independence.
There is also a Web site for a group called North Star Republic, with a mission to establish a socialist republic in what today is Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
A group of American Indians led by activist Russell Means is working to establish the Republic of Lakotah, which would cover parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska. In 2007, the Republic presented the U.S. State Department with a notice of withdrawal.