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Missouri House Passes Measure Prohibiting Enforcement Of Federal Gun Laws

Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Republic, has sponsored the Second Amendment Preservation Act for years, but said it was important to pass this year as Democrats gain control at the federal level.
Tim Bommel
Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Republic, has sponsored the Second Amendment Preservation Act for years, but he said it was important to pass this year as Democrats gain control at the federal level.

The Missouri House on Thursday approved a measure that subjects state and local police departments to lawsuits if officers enforce federal gun laws.

Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Republic, has sponsored the legislation, which is known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act, for years. He said the need to pass it in 2021 is important because of a Congress and president “so openly against our Second Amendment.”

The measure carries a penalty of a minimum fine of $50,000 plus court costs if a department enforces any federal gun law that the state does not have on its books. House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, pointed out that there is no upper limit included in the legislation.

Taylor said that’s the point.

“The best way to get the departments’ attention, and to make sure that they follow this law and to make sure they protect our Second Amendment rights, is to hit them in the pocketbook,” Taylor said.

Some argued the measure would be unconstitutional, but Taylor said the anti-commandeering doctrine makes it legal. That doctrine says Congress cannot require states to enforce or adopt federal laws, giving states the ability to define their own laws.

The most recent, controversial example upheld by the Supreme Court is sanctuary cities. While federal immigration laws are still in place, those cities do not allow local resources to be used to enforce them.

Taylor said federal gun laws remain intact, but local police will not be allowed to enforce them.

“We can’t be forced to enforce federal law,” Taylor said. “We’re not saying federal agents can’t enforce federal law in Missouri, we’re just saying we’re not going to help in the federal prosecution.”

Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, one of the 103 Republicans who voted in favor of the legislation, praised the chamber for moving to pass it so quickly.

“As a mother of six I need to be able to protect myself and my family and I will never let politicians in Washington decide what Missourians, who elected me and you to sit in these chairs, what laws we pass here in this state,” Coleman said.

The bill passed on party lines. It garnered no support from Democrats, with all 43 voting against it.

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Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, was a vocal opponent during floor debate. He pointed out that laws such as background checks and gun dealer licensing are federal laws, which would no longer be able to be enforced by police in Missouri. If they are, departments are at risk of being sued by criminals under the federal law.

“We are literally defunding our law enforcement agencies to give that money to criminals; this is not hyperbole,” Merideth said. “All I ask is that you consider, while you’re making a vote that you think is just a political ideology statement about supporting the Second Amendment, that you think twice.”

In 2020, Missouri recorded its highest levels of gun violence in history. Quade said, by passing this legislation, Republicans “failed in their duty to protect the people of this state.”

“As gun violence continues to spread unchecked in Missouri, House Republicans today advanced dangerous legislation to make the situation far worse,” she said.

Several Democrats also noted that this law would allow domestic abusers access to firearms, because again, restricting an abuser’s rights to guns is a federal law.

“Federal law prohibits domestic abusers, people with restraining orders and those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from having guns,” said Rep. Richard Brown, D-Kansas City. “The only people who should be fighting me on this are wife beaters.”

Brown has filed a proposal that prohibits any person who has been convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault or who is in the United States illegally from possessing a firearm. The bill has not yet been assigned to a committee.

Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, said judges in state courts have the ability to restrict Second Amendment rights for abusers who are deemed a threat to other people. However, legislation filed by Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O’Fallon, would allow felons access to firearms again once they completed their probation or parole. That measure has also not been assigned to a committee.

SAPA passed both chambers in 2013, but then-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed it. The House overrode the veto, but the override effort failed in the Senate.

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Jaclyn is the Jefferson City statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.