Missouri gun bill would thwart law enforcement efforts, attorney general says

Tuesday, September 3, 2013 | 8:29 p.m. CDT; updated 1:01 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 4, 2013

JEFFERSON CITY — In a letter to lawmakers Tuesday, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said criminals will be able to sue police officers for enforcing federal gun-control laws in Missouri if the Second Amendment Preservation Act became law.

The bill would nullify all federal laws infringing on the right to bear arms, lower the age limit for concealed carry to 19, allow school districts to designate teachers and administration as "school protection officers" who must carry firearm at all times or be subject to potential termination, and make it a Class A misdemeanor to publish the names of firearm owners.

The General Assembly will vote on whether to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of the gun legislation during the veto session next week.

Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, says he will vote against overriding Nixon’s veto. He said the vast majority of Missouri Democrats are against the bill.

"The bill is absolutely nuts," Webber said. "It's unconstitutional and everyone knows it. It is literally trying to turn the FBI, DEA and others into criminals, and that's crazy. Ninety percent of the House knows it's crazy, it's just a matter of whether people will stand up to it."

The bill pits state agencies against federal agencies and could be declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, Koster said.

"When a police officer in the city of St. Louis recovers a fully automatic machine gun from a drug dealer's car, should the matter no longer be sent to the U.S. Attorney's Office because the federal Gun Control Act of 1934 outlawed the weapon?" Koster asked in the letter to lawmakers.

He said federal courts would still closely scrutinize the bill even if it were overridden.

In 1958, the Supreme Court unanimously decided: "No state legislator or executive or judicial officer can wage war against federal constitution without violating his undertaking to support constitution."

"While state legislatures have occasionally sought to nullify various federal laws through history, the U.S. Supreme Court has shown no patience for these exercises," Koster said.

However, nullification has been used in other states-rights cases. Montana passed a similar law exempting locally manufactured guns that haven't left state borders from federal gun control laws, but the law was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Other states have passed nullification laws on marijuana sale and use.

In a response to Koster’s letter, House Speaker Tim Jones said he was "disappointed" the attorney general was siding with the governor.

"What he fails to acknowledge in his politically motivated letter is that the bill, at its core, seeks to affirm our rights as a state by pushing back against a federal government that has far exceeded the authority it was intended to have by our founding fathers," Jones said.

A two-thirds vote is needed in both the House and the Senate to override the governor's veto.

Supervising editors are Gary Castor and Stephanie Ebbs.

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Michael Williams September 3, 2013 | 4:44 p.m.

"Nixon, a former state attorney general, contends the bill violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution that generally gives preference to federal laws over conflicting state ones..."

First, several columnists and posters in this newspaper have quoted the Supremacy Clause in their nullification arguments, generally saying nullification simply is not possible.

Most have apparently not read the Supremacy Clause....or have only read the parts they like.

With respect to federal laws, the Supremacy Clause is quite clear*** that such laws MUST be constitutional. If they are not constitutional, then the Supremacy Clause does NOT apply.

Second, I would like to hear Koster's nullification arguments (and Missourian columnists) on state marijuana law in places like Colorado. After all, whether you agree or not, marijuana IS illegal.....according to federal law. I see no way for an intellectually honest citizen to argue nullification is ok only when he/she says it is. Laws exist so individuals don't get to pick and choose in societal matters.

Third, having said all that, I think some of Koster's arguments may have merit. There may be unintended consequences that are worthy of discussion. It is interesting, tho, that Koster's opinions are currently all conjecture....a posture poo-pooed by folks who claim "Why have voter ID laws when there is no demonstrated problem in the first place?"

Is there a REAL problem here?

I'd certainly like to see a Missourian rebuttal....point by point.

***"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."

Note the phrase after the word "Constitution".

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith September 4, 2013 | 8:11 a.m.


This goes to how the federal constitution is deliberately being interpreted today by many individuals and groups: as if it were some Chinese restaurant menu. They choose "dishes" from the "columns" on the menu they personally like and ignore those in columns that they dislike, or have never chosen to consider. That's both normal and permissible in a Chinese restaurant, but not with the Constitution.

The Constitution contains a procedure for changing, deleting, or adding to its existing content. Doing so isn't easy, and that was almost certainly intentional. :)

(Report Comment)

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