JEFFERSON CITY — Members of the Missouri Senate's General Laws Committee heard testimony Tuesday in a packed hearing room on a bill that would make unenforceable federal laws or executive actions that restrict access to guns.
As witness after witness sat down next to the sponsor, Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, to testify in favor of the bill, the committee chairman, Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, expressed his support for the legislation as well.
When Jeff Overstreet, CEO of the Fayette-based gun dealer CMMG, introduced himself, Nieves said "God bless you" to laughter in the room.
About a dozen people testified at the hearing. Jim Lembke, representing United for Missouri, spoke in some of the starkest terms about the importance of the bill.
"The states have to stand up to tyranny," he said. "The states have to step up to a federal government that is stepping over its bounds."
The bill comes after President Barack Obama, in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., issued an impassioned call for sweeping legislation to curb gun violence.
The president on Jan. 16 used his power to enact 23 executive orders that don't require the backing of lawmakers. Those orders include ordering federal agencies to make more data available for background checks.
The president is pressing a reluctant Congress to pass universal background checks, a move that would close the so-called "gun-show loophole" that allows people to buy guns at trade shows and over the Internet without submitting to background checks. He also wants to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the Newtown massacre.
The Missouri bill would seek to block enforcement of many of those initiatives. Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, expressed incredulity that the bill is even being discussed.
"I just want to know, what are we doing with this here?" she asked. "I was of the mindset that federal law trumps state. And maybe I'm wrong now, but for us to bring forth a piece of legislation of this magnitude looks like a waste of all of our time."
The only person to testify against the bill was Caleb Michael Files, a political science student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He, too, cited the supremacy clause in the U.S. Constitution as grounds for his opposition.
Some of the information in this story was contributed by the Associated Press.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.