Supporters testify for Missouri bill to invalidate federal firearms laws

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 | 9:42 p.m. CDT; updated 3:29 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 13, 2013

*An earlier version of this article did not identify the specific Senate committees.

JEFFERSON CITY — *On the same day that the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass a bill to require background checks for almost all firearms purchases, the Missouri Senate General Laws Committee heard public testimony on a bill that seeks to invalidate federal firearms laws.

Sponsored by the committee's chairman, Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, the bill would apply to "federal laws that infringe on the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution." According to the bill's text, that would include the Gun Control Acts of 1934 and 1968. Any federal employee trying to enforce the laws invalidated by the bill would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

Each of the six witnesses who came to the hearing spoke in its favor. Among them was Ron Calzone, one of the directors of Missouri First, and Michael Kilgus, a Vietnam War veteran, both of whom had testified the previous week at a House committee hearing for a similar bill. 

As at the House committee hearing, Calzone brought with him hundreds of witness forms filled out online by supporters of the bill — more than 1,200 for the House bill and about 800 for the Senate bill.

He commended Nieves' bill, saying that legislators' primary job is to defend Missourians' liberties, and that "there's nothing more important than our God-given liberty to protect our lives and the life of our families."

Kilgus urged the legislators to "stand up for vets" by passing the legislation.

John Fagot, a Columbia resident, told the committee that passage of the bill could create jobs in Missouri. Gun manufacturers could leave states that pass firearms laws unfavorable to business, and could then move to Missouri, he said.

Following the hearing, Nieves spoke about the bill's constitutionality, saying that federal law does not necessarily take precedence over state law. The supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution — which states that federal law supersedes state law — only applies when the state law in question is unconstitutional, he said.

Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, who is on the committee but not one of bill's sponsors, said he believes the fundamental goal of the bill is to challenge federal law.

"The legislation is there to simply set up a lawsuit," he said.

A bill that was passed along partisan lines in a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday would require nearly universal federal background checks for firearms buyers, according to The Associated Press. 

A recent study by a Johns Hopkins University professor said that Missouri's lax gun laws have led to a 25 percent increase in homicides involving firearms in the state from 2008 to 2010, while the national rate declined by 10 percent during the same period, according to AP.

The Missouri Senate committee, which has five Republicans and two Democrats, has yet to schedule a day to vote on the bill. The same committee voted March 5 to pass a bill that would make unenforceable any federal executive orders regulating firearm ownership that are more restrictive than laws already in place at the end of 2012.

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