T.J. McKenna should re-read his oath of office.
Mr. McKenna is a Democrat state representative from Festus who last week told Associated Press reporter David Lieb that he was prepared to cast a vote in September that he knew would violate the U.S. Constitution.
Last session, Mr. McKenna was one of 11 House Democrats and two Senate Democrats to join nearly the entire Republican delegation of the Missouri legislature in passing House Bill 436, which seeks to nullify every federal gun law ever passed or that ever will be passed. The law would make criminals of federal agents who tried to enforce federal laws. It would legalize fully automatic machine guns in Missouri.
Besides being dangerous, stupid and frivolous, it is plainly unconstitutional, violating both the First Amendment and the Supremacy Clause, which gives priority to federal laws when they are in conflict with state laws.
That’s why Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill. It’s why even if the legislature overrides his veto in September it will never actually become law. The courts will toss it in a New York minute, but only after the state wastes a lot of time and taxpayer dollars preparing to defend it.
Mr. McKenna knows this. Here’s what he told Mr. Lieb:
“We love our guns and we love hunting. It’s not worth the fight for me to vote against it. … The bill is completely unconstitutional, so the courts are going to have to throw it out.”
We’re not insensitive to Mr. McKenna’s plight. He represents an area of Jefferson County that is increasingly Republican. Many of his friends, neighbors and constituents truly believe the fantasy that President Barack Obama is coming to get their guns. Mr. McKenna lives in one of the few House districts in the state that is competitive.
Here’s the oath of office Mr. McKenna and every other state lawmaker took in January:
“I do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of the state of Missouri, and faithfully perform the duties of my office, and that I will not knowingly receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing for the performance or nonperformance of any act or duty pertaining to my office, other than the compensation allowed by law.”
You can’t support the U.S. Constitution by passing laws that trash it.
Remarkably, only one Republican in the House had the courage to live up to his oath when the unconstitutional gun law vote came to the floor.
Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, was the sole GOP “no” vote on the bill.
Why? Because the constitution matters.
“Our Constitution is not a Chinese buffet,” said Mr. Barnes, who happens to be an attorney.
For months now, we’ve chided Republicans for their moral ineptitude in treating the gun debate like a joke. It’s nearly incomprehensible, for instance, that three Republicans who are interested in running for attorney general (Sens. Kurt Schaefer and Eric Schmitt, and Speaker of the House Tim Jones) think so little of the Constitution that they would vote for the bill. Lawyers are officers of the court; they should resign from the bar if that’s how they feel.
But Mr. McKenna’s contempt for the Constitution might be even worse. He’s willing to trade his oath of office for a meaningless vote because he thinks it might inoculate him from an electoral challenge.
That’s just cowardice. It’s also a waste of time.
Remember Steve Hodges? The Democrat state representative from East Prairie recently ran for Congress in Missouri’s 8th District. Mr. Hodges, like Mr. McKenna, foolishly voted for House Bill 436. Guess what? His Republican opponent still painted him as an anti-gun pinko commie.
Mr. Hodges now says he’ll vote to sustain Mr. Nixon’s override.
Guess he’s tired of Chinese leftovers.
He should sit down with Mr. McKenna and fellow Democrats Ben Harris of Hillsboro and Keith English of Florissant and let them know that violating the Constitution gets them nowhere. Both Mssrs. Harris and English told Mr. Lieb that they, too, would vote against Mr. Nixon, and against the Constitution.
“Being a rural-area Democrat, if you don’t vote for any gun bill, it will kill you,” Mr. Harris said. “That’s what the Republicans want you to do is vote against it, because if you vote against it, they’ll send one mailer every week just blasting you about guns, and you’ll lose” re-election.
No, Mr. Harris. You will deserve to lose re-election if you don’t have the courage of your convictions. You will lose your election if you can’t speak the truth to your constituents. You will lose your election because you’re more concerned about mailers than the one document you swore to support.
Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.