WHAT OTHERS SAY: Missouri Constitution is not Chinese buffet

Monday, August 5, 2013 | 3:32 p.m. CDT

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.

Too bad.

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.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Michael Williams August 5, 2013 | 5:22 p.m.

" 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."

The author needs to actually READ the Supremacy Clause. Here it is:

"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding."

Now, pay particular attention to the "and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof" part.

What does this phrase mean to you, the reader?

To me, it means that any law must be made in pursuance of the US Constitution.

If a State believes a law is NOT in pursuance of the US Constitution, then it can challenge said law. Such a challenge is then adjudicated in the courts (potentially reaching SCOTUS). If the courts find the law IS indeed in pursuance of the US Constitution, then the Supremacy Law DOES apply.

The State of Missouri and other like-minded States are simply putting such things to the test.

The authors of this editorial seem to believe that Congress can pass any damnphool law it wishes, and if the President signs it then the Supremacy Law always and immediately applies.

Not so. Until a law is judged constitutional, States are quite free to say, "Nuh uh...hold your horses!".

PS: Some will argue "Well, gee, Michael....with your argument a State could nullify any amendment it wishes!" No, it can't, and here's why: An amendment IS in the Constitution. Read the Supremacy Clause again. Parse it grammatically. It says the Constitution IS the law of the land. If it's in the Constitution, then it's automatically constitutional and the Clause always applies. It is not only in pursuance of the Constitution....It IS the Constitution. We're talking about post-Constitutional laws here....not the Constitution itself. And those laws HAVE TO BE in pursuance of the Constitution (i.e., they have to be Constitutional) for the Supremacy Clause to apply.

And that's what is being tested....nullification of laws a State(s) thinks just might be unconstitutional.

Not a waste of time at fact, I'm kinda proud of us.

PSS: I note some really big legacy newspapers are being sold. This mirrors an article in this newspaper the other day which bemoans the down-slide of the dailies.

A hundred years-or-so ago, railroads in the West had a monopoly; their treatment of westerners was abysmal and of the "who cares what they think" sort.

Now those same westerners have alternatives and options. What they now say about the railroads is unprintable.

Same thing newspapers........

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.