WHAT OTHERS SAY: Even the NRA opposes latest Missouri gun bill

Monday, February 17, 2014 | 11:33 a.m. CST

Note to Missouri Republicans: When you are so far out there on a gun bill that the National Rifle Association has to pull back, you’re doing it even wronger than usual.

Such is the case with this year’s version of the gun nullification bill sponsored by Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington. The Senate gave initial approval to the bill last week, but now the NRA is urging the same Republicans who passed it to kill it because of an amendment the gun lobby doesn’t like.

That’s quite the 24-hour turnaround on a piece of legislation that Senate Republicans obviously think is more important than schools, or jobs, or any of the other important matters they could have been talking about.

How does this happen? Let’s hit rewind.

The bill, which Mr. Nieves calls the Second Amendment Preservation Act, actually preserves nothing but Mr. Nieves’ solid reputation for legislative irrelevance. It’s a slightly watered down version of the same legislation passed by the legislature last year and then vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon.

The bill is, to use the words of state Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, “plainly unconstitutional.” Mr. Barnes is an attorney.

Mr. Nixon’s veto was sustained after two key Senate leaders — Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, and Sen. Ron Richards, R-Joplin — found some intestinal fortitude and voted against it during last September’s veto session. Mr. Dempsey, the Senate president pro tem, and Mr. Richard, the majority floor leader, never should have allowed such a piece of unconstitutional nonsense to the floor to begin with.

They are both reasonable men who knew the bill would never become law, and if it did, would be tossed by the courts, but not until the state had wasted a bunch of money defending it. Unfortunately, as is too common in the Republican Party these days, they chose to mollify the furthest right wing elements of the party by passing the bill in the first place.

The bill seeks to nullify every federal gun law ever passed and those that might be passed in the future. It would make criminals of federal law enforcement officials who try to enforce such laws in the state of Missouri, even by taking them away from criminals. It would legalize weapons inside of schools, even though most school districts aren’t asking for such “help.”

After Mssrs. Dempsey and Richard killed the bill in last year’s veto session, they promised to allow Mr. Nieves to bring the legislation up early this session if he reworked it to avoid certain issues, primarily the concern among law enforcement officials that it would jeopardize their ability to do their jobs.

But this year’s version, now Senate Bill 613, isn’t much different than last year’s, though it at least got rid of a provision that would have made criminals of journalists for ever printing the name of gun owners in the newspaper. The bill is still not worth the paper it’s printed on. It’s still never going to do anything to protect anybody’s Second Amendment rights, even if such rights were in jeopardy, which they aren’t.

But that didn’t stop the Senate from making it one of the first bills it sought to pass. First, though, Mr. Nieves allowed Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, to attach an amendment to the bill that would require people who have a gun stolen to report the theft within 72 hours.

Enter the NRA panic team.

Such reporting, which is intended to crack down on both the theft of firearms and their re-use in crime — a major issue in Ms. Nasheed’s district — is seen by the deeply paranoid gun lobby as a precursor to a secret database that President Barack Obama will use to take your guns.

“Law abiding gun owners should not be made a victim twice,” the NRA wrote in an alert to its members asking them to call senators to oppose the so-called Second Amendment Preservation Act. The grammar is almost as bad as the reasoning.

This opposition to reporting a stolen gun is especially interesting in light of what happened in the Missouri Capitol last summer. That was when a now-former staff member of House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, left a loaded pistol in a Capitol restroom.

He reported it lost, and, much to his chagrin, ended up with his name in the newspaper because of it.

Surely, that’s not why the NRA opposes Ms. Nasheed’s provision, is it?

It’s odd to find ourselves on the same side of gun issue as the NRA. Of course, the NRA is against it for all the wrong reasons, but in the spirit of togetherness, let’s ignore that.

It says a lot about the silliness of the legislature, the loss of intellectual heft created by term limits and the general dysfunction of the Missouri Republican Party that a bill filed with the sole purpose of mollifying pro-gun extremists would wind up only making them angrier.

Of course, that was always going to happen. Even if Mr. Nieves were talented enough to get his bill across the finish line, it would be thrown out of court. By then some Republicans would have used the entire process to raise money and further erode the legislative process.

Mssrs. Dempsey and Richard should remember what they accomplished last year. It’s time for them to tell Mr. Nieves that he had his chance and move on to the people’s actual work.

For once, the NRA is right. Senate Bill 613 should die.

Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.

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