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Missouri police group asks legislators to drop override effort of bill nullifying federal gun laws

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 4, 2013 - A week ago, the Missouri General Assembly appeared well on its way to overriding Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of HB436, a bill intended to promote gun rights by barring the enforcement of federal gun laws.

But a day after Attorney General Chris Koster warned of trouble, theMissouri Fraternal Order of Police is weighing in with a hard-hitting call for legislators to drop any override effort.

“Although we believe it was the intent of the bill sponsors to pass a ‘symbolic’ bill regarding their view of the federal firearms debate,’’ the police group said in a statement, “overriding Gov. Nixon’s veto will have lasting and chilling effects on the ability of local and state law enforcement officers to keep themselves and Missouri communities safe.”

The Fraternal Order of Police represents about 5,300 rank-and-file police who are members in 25 lodges around the state.

“Should the override occur, portions of the bill are expected to be struck down in the federal court system,’’ the group went on. “ What many are not aware of, however, is that other portions, detrimental to effective law enforcement and the safety of our citizens, will become law.

“With the exception of a few crimes such as ‘white collar’ offenses, HB 436 would prohibit any collaborative effort or investigation between local and federal law enforcement agencies. A few examples include human trafficking, violent offenders and methamphetamine or other dangerous drug investigations.”

Among other things, the police group said, “HB 436 would prohibit any joint investigation into such a terroristic act anywhere in Missouri, from Kansas City to St. Louis to West Plains.”

“Not only does HB 436 decrease the authority of Missouri law enforcement officers, it actually increases our liability by expanding civil tort action and allowing convicted criminals the ability to successfully sue us simply for referring their case to the federal court system. That is a slap in the face to every man and woman who goes out each day and night and willingly puts his and her life on the line for those who cannot protect themselves.”

The police group concluded, “As stated previously, we do not believe it was the intent of the bill makers for the above consequences to occur. The reality, however, is that they will occur should HB 436 become law. Please do not put your police officers, deputies, troopers and all other Missourians at greater risk by making this bill law.”

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