GUEST COMMENTARY: Sen. Nieves' proposed legislation doesn't support law enforcement

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:50 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 9, 2013

*CORRECTION: SB 325 was introduced by Brian Nieves.

On the one hand, Missouri legislators seem poised to pass legislation to restrict drones, which could be used for invasive purposes by police, journalists, real estate agents, peeping Toms. ...

On the other hand, Missouri Sen. Brian Nieves* has introduced legislation, SB 325, that apparently would give Missourians the right to bear armed drones.

SB 325 says, in part: "All federal acts, laws, orders, rules and regulations, whether past, present, or future, which infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution ... shall be invalid in this state."

Specifically, Nieves’ law would eliminate the federal gun control acts of 1934 and 1968. Further, any U.S. official who tries to enforce federal laws in Missouri "is guilty of a class A misdemeanor."

This means that if the federal government passed legislation requiring universal background checks, Missouri would not permit its enforcement. Does it also mean that provisions of the Atomic Energy Act that restrict nuclear arms would be invalid in Missouri? Would machine guns now be legal in Missouri?

Although Nieves pays lip service in his legislation to "law-abiding citizens," whose side is he on? The side of drug dealers and other criminals and mentally unstable people — the folks who potentially would be screened out of buying guns at gun shows. Nieves is on the side of the gun-show loophole. He is not on the side of any decent, law-abiding citizen who wants protection by the government against the meanest elements in our society.

Nieves, I am part of the gun society. Do you think that means I am against all gun-control laws?

I was raised in southern Missouri in an extended family. When my uncle married and left home, I got his bedroom, along with the big gun case and hunting rifles. That uncle would host a couple of hundred deer hunters in the fall at his ham-and-bean-and-cornbread feast kicking off his favorite season of the year. As a teenager, my brother started entering — and winning — shooting contests. He was nationally ranked and has a mantle full of trophies attesting to his skill.

Yes, I was raised with guns, and I can pass any kind of background check the feds require, as can my fellow law-abiding citizens who are not adjudged mentally impaired. Who cannot pass are the ones I do not want to have guns, especially machine guns.

Feeble rhetoric leaves me cold. "Guns don’t kill people. People kill people." How clever! Try this: "Guns don’t kill people. People with guns who shouldn’t have them kill people."

Or try this: "You can’t stop the criminals from getting guns." True, some criminals will still get guns, but why should folks like Nieves make it easier? Why let the criminals just waddle up to the gun shows and buy guns with no attempt to stop such dangerous transactions?

Speeding laws will not stop all speeders. Is the logical conclusion that society should eliminate all speeding laws? That same nonlogic says to take down all barriers to gun purchases for criminals because some criminals will get guns. Not having speeding laws would mean even greater slaughter on our highways. Letting criminals buy weapons with impunity, in the open, legally, at gun shows is simply unconscionable.

This country has been through this kind of gun-violence debacle before. Tommy guns: The prohibition-era criminals such as Al Capone loved them. The guns’ massive killing power led the federal government to ban them, with NRA support. Nieves' bill would make the enforcement of the current federal ban on machine guns illegal in Missouri, as well as enforcement of any future limits on assault weapons.

My fear is not just for little school children or people attending theaters who can be wiped out in large numbers with assault weapons. My fear is for policemen and policewomen who get paid so pathetically little and then are told to go to the home of the meth maker who is armed with assault weapons and high-capacity clips.

Nieves is on the side of the armed meth maker, not the police. He may try to deceive himself that he has some high-minded constitutional reason for his position, but that is sheer delusion.

The Second Amendment says "right to keep and bear arms." Is that an absolute, unlimited right? Does Nieves think that amendment means that a wealthy consortium of Americans should have the right to bear nuclear arms? Do we have the right to bear Tommy guns, rocket launchers, heat-seeking missiles, flame throwers, armed drones? Why the prejudice against these weapons? Or is it prejudice? How about common sense — something that Nieves and all the other unwitting facilitators of criminals arguably lack.

Sandy Davidson, Ph.D., J.D., teaches media law at MU.

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