USDOT Denies Trucking Group’s Emergency Plea on Interstate Truckers’ Right to Carry
Washington D.C. – The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has denied a trucking group’s emergency plea to provide regulatory relief to interstate truckers from restrictive state and local gun laws amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
On March 20, as States such as California and New York began issuing shelter-in-place orders, the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) sent an urgent letter to (USDOT) Secretary, Elaine Chao, asking for an emergency order to preempt restrictive state and local laws pertaining to truckers’ right to carry a firearm.
Arguing the safety of truckers is being jeopardized amid “desolate” metropolitan areas, and as cities like New York City and Los Angeles release prison inmates back on the streets, the SBTC’s plea asked Sec. Chao to take preemptive action.
“In accordance with the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, we hereby request the USDOT to please issue a preemption order nullifying any and all state and local laws that restrict truck drivers from carrying firearms across state lines throughout America in order to enable them to protect themselves and their cargo as they engage in interstate commerce,” the group urged.
In a thorough response on Tuesday, April 21, Larry Minor, associate administrator for policy with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), informed the SBTC its request had been denied.
“FMCSA does not have jurisdiction over firearms possession by commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers engaged in interstate commerce, and the matter is outside FMCSA’s preemption authority,” Minor advised. “Our understanding is that Federal law generally does not prohibit CMV drivers from carrying firearms in their vehicles, provided that they comply with State and local laws. Such action may also be subject to restrictions imposed by employers, owners, or operators of the CMVs.”
Also at issue is whether the USDOT Secretary has the authority to issue a preemption on such matters.
Minor explained that Federal regulations allow the Secretary to preempt certain State laws “on commercial motor vehicle safety,” and State laws that “relate to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier.”
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However, he contended State laws regulating possession of firearms do not fall within the Secretary’s authority.
James Lamb, president of the SBTC, responded by arguing, “Cities like New York have laws affecting drivers that are more stringent than Federal law, and that the Secretary as the designee of the President has Constitutional authority under the Supremacy Clause to grant the request; that is, the Executive branch need not look to any statute for authority when the Constitution already bestows such authority on the President under both the Supremacy and Commerce Clauses.”
Lamb is asking the USDOT to reconsider, and also tells Transportation Nation Network (TNN) he is considering taking the request directly to President Donald Trump for review.
The SBTC also has a similar request request currently before the U.S. Congress demanding legislative action on the matter.
At the heart of the 15,000-member group’s legal argument to Congress is the theory that restrictive state gun laws are both a violation of the Second Amendment as well as the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution because such laws are an “interference with interstate commerce.”
“The Constitution gives the Federal Government the right to use the Commerce Clause as a hook to override those state and local laws. What we need here is a Federal assertion of power to say truckers can carry in furtherance of their Second Amendment rights and the states cannot say they can’t,” Lamb contends.
TNN will continue to follow any new developments.
Photo courtesy of New York Truck Stop