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Isom Urges Veto On Missouri Bill That Would Target Police For Infringing On Gun Rights

Missouri Department of Public Safety Dan Isom
File photo
Jason Rosenbaum / St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis' interim Public Safety director, Dan Isom, as shown at a 2013 press conference.

Last week, in the flurry of bills passed in the final days of Missouri’s 2021 legislative session, a curious piece of legislation found approval in both the House and Senate.

House Bill 85, which now goes to Gov. Mike Parson for his signature, makes it illegal to register or track firearms. The “Second Amendment Preservation Act” also holds that state law supersedes any federal laws on guns, nullifying any federal restrictions on gun ownership within Missouri’s borders. Any police department that employs someone who knowingly deprives a Missouri citizen of their Second Amendment rights could be fined up to $50,000 — per employee.

Experts say parts of the law are patently unconstitutional. States, after all, can’t just override federal law.

But St. Louis Interim Public Safety Director Dan Isom worries that other parts could survive a court challenge — and become a huge headache for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

He said on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air that he is hopeful that Parson will veto it.

Isom Urges Veto On Missouri Bill That Would Target Police For Infringing On Gun Rights
St. Louis’ interim public safety director Dan Isom shares his thoughts about several bills approved last week by the Missouri legislature. Will the police department’s concerns be enough to trigger vetos by Governor Mike Parson?

“The governor is former law enforcement,” Isom said. “I hope he would look at it and say this is not necessary, that the protections are in place for people who want to legally possess weapons. And this would just really be another roadblock for communities and police departments to protect citizens.”

One big roadblock could involve city police officers who coordinate with federal authorities to bring federal charges against residents who use guns to commit violent crime. People arrested by St. Louis police are regularly charged in federal court for gun violations, something House Bill 85 could disrupt.

“It's unclear whether or not local law enforcement can be barred from using state or local money to enforce federal laws, or to provide information to federal agencies, about gun crimes that have happened within the state of Missouri,” Isom said.

He noted that federal agents could still compel that information via subpoena, but it would take much longer to do so. “To slow that process down of protecting the community — when it's really ultimately unnecessary, and the information will flow at some point in time anyway — is really doing a disservice to our communities.”

Isom called the provisions that would fine police departments up to $50,000 per employee for restricting firearms “the most distressing part of this.”

He added: “To put one more burden on the back of the community, and on the backs of law enforcement, I just think is really misplaced.”

Isom served as St. Louis’ police chief from 2008 to 2013. He said that laws making Missouri one of the most permissive states in the U.S. for gun owners have increasingly become a problem for local law enforcement. As of 2017, anyone over age 19 can carry a concealed weapon, no permit required.

“I think early on, people were not necessarily aware and comfortable with possessing a weapon, because they weren't sure if they were legally capable of doing so,” he said. “It is pretty well known now how easy it is to purchase a weapon in Missouri, and also to carry one. And so I think that is the real big difference, is that there is such awareness of the ability to do it now.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.