'Interstate commerce" and the Gun Control Act
There are a number of court decisions that basically extend GCA 68 to the outermost constitutional limits of the commerce power, to the point where you begin to wonder whether the Court regards Congressional action as irrelevant to the statute. E.g., the Supreme Court held in one case that the ban on felons possessing "in" commerce or receiving a gun that had ever travelled in commerce extended to a defendant who had *received* before he became a felon (thus no violation) and thereafter possessed, but not in commerce (no violation). It simply said that Congress had meant to extend its powers to the limit of the Commerce Clause... presumably since Congress COULD have written it possessed a gun that has ever travelled in commerce, that conduct was illegal, even though Congress didn't write the statute that way.
I've had two thoughts on this.
1. Congress did *not* try to write to the outer edges of the commerce power. Not only are there the limited uses of the power above, there's also a definition of interstate commerce in GCA itself. 18 USC 921(a)(2) provides that commerce "includes commerce between any place in a State and any place outside of that State, or within any possession of the United States (not including the Canal Zone) or the District of Columbia, but such term does not include commerce between places within the same State but through any place outside of that State." The exclusion of commerce that only coincidentally passes through another state is not found in the general definition of commerce for most Title 18, i.e., 18 USC 10. And it's hardly required by caselaw.
2. Since the commerce nexus is an element of the crime, it must be decided by the jury. If you give jury instructions based directly on the statute, a person in the situation of Dr. Emerson (not a prohibited person when gun was received, became one later while in possession) wins if the jury follows the statute. So what does a court do? Add a jury instruction that amounts to "OK, you've heard the statute. You are instructed that the Supreme Court has said the statute doesn't mean that, but rather means ... " whatever. That would not only be rather awkward, but comes rather close to a directed verdict for the prosecution.