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Nixon vetoes bill to nullify federal gun laws

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has dispatched two more gun-related bills – vetoing one and signing the other – as he continues what could be a record-setting string of vetoes since he took office.

But in these two cases, the governor on Friday made a point of citing his own gun-toting practices and his love of hunting (especially deer and doves).

The governor signed HB533, which allows state employers to store firearms in their vehicles parked on state property. But Nixon vetoed HB436,  dubbed by sponsors as the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,’’ which in effect nullified all federal gun laws – going back to the 1934 ban on machine guns.

The bill also made it illegal to publish the names of any gun-owners.

“This unnecessary and unconstitutional attempt to nullify federal laws would have violated Missourians’ First Amendment right to free speech – while doing nothing to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners,” Nixon said in his veto message regarding HB436.

“In fact, under this bill, newspaper editors around the state that annually publish photos of proud young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer could be charged with a crime.”

The Missouri Press Association had called for Nixon to veto the bill.

The governor also said that HB436 violated the U.S. Constitution. Aside from a pre-Civil War view of states’ powers to nullify federal laws, Nixon said the bill also ran counter to Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, commonly referred to as the supremacy clause, which “gives precedence to the laws of the nation over those of the respective states.”

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, had been a sponsor of HB436, which received veto-proof support from 116 state representatives during its final House vote. A spokesman said that the speaker will determine in the August caucus if there is enough support to override the governor's veto during September's veto session.

The bill also captured a veto-proof majority of 26 senators in the Missouri Senate.

In a statement, Jones said, “The Second Amendment Preservation Act was an important bill to strengthen our rights and push back against the federal government, which under the Obama administration has been pushing for laws repugnant to the Second Amendment. It is very disappointing to see Gov. Nixon side with President Obama instead of standing up for the constitutional rights of Missourians."

Jones, by the way, has signaled strong interest in running for Missouri attorney general in 2016. Jones, like Nixon, is a lawyer.

Opponents pointed to another provision of HB436 that required that school teachers or administrators designated as school protection officers "shall be authorized to carry concealed firearms in any school in the district and shall be required to keep such firearm on his or her person at all times while on school property.  Any school protection officer who violates this subsection shall be removed immediately from the classroom and subject to employment termination proceedings."

As for HB533, which the governor signed, Nixon noted that he supported several other provisions, such as allowing a fire chief to carry a concealed firearm. That bill also included a sentiment of  “the General Assembly’s support of responsible gun ownership.“

HB533 had received 125 supportive votes in the House.

“As a gun owner and hunter, I support the Second Amendment rights of Missourians and oppose efforts to undermine them,” Nixon said. “That is why, as governor, I have enacted legislation to expand gun rights, including bills to strengthen the Castle Doctrine and to allow more Missourians to carry concealed weapons. House Bill 533 is a sensible expansion of Missouri’s already strong protections for gun owners.”

Nixon’s list of gun-related bills that he signed includes:

  • A 2012 bill to lower the right-to-carry age for active duty military stationed in Missouri from 21 to 18.
  • A 2011 measure that “lowered the age at which Missourians can obtain a conceal carry endorsement from 23 to 21 and allowed elected officials and staff with concealed carry permits to carry firearms in the Missouri State Capitol.”
  • Bills in 2010 that “expand the scope of the ‘Castle Doctrine’ to include the protection of unborn children” and authorize “small business owners and farmers to use deadly force on property they own or lease without having a duty to retreat. “

Nixon also cited his actions during his 16 years as Missouri’s attorney general, such as his brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court “urging it to strike down the Washington, D.C. gun ban and adopt the position that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms.”
He pointed out as his office “also defended Missouri’s conceal carry law before the Missouri Supreme Court and obtained reciprocity agreements from other states to recognize Missouri’s conceal carry permits, making Missouri’s endorsement the most widely recognized in the nation.”

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.