The nation's most influential gun-rights group is conspicuously absent - and nearly silent - in a growing battle between states and the federal government over gun control.
The National Rifle Association has been taking a low profile when it comes to the firearms freedom acts that have been passed by seven state legislatures and spawned a growing legal fight between those states, some gun advocates and the U.S. Justice Department.
The firearms freedom act was first launched last year in the Montana Legislature, pushed by local gun advocates. The law states that guns made and sold within a state's borders are exempt from federal gun control under Congress' authority to regulate interstate commerce.
A lawsuit filed last year by Montana gun advocates following passage of the law argued the state should decide which rules, if any, would control the sale and purchase of guns and paraphernalia made in Montana. The state would then be exempt from rules on federal gun registration, background checks and dealer-licensing.
Several attorneys general, including Democrat Steve Bullock of Montana, have joined the gun advocates this month in their legal fight. But the NRA is sitting on the sidelines - perhaps because the influential group doesn't think the states stand much of a chance with their constitutional legal argument.