JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House gave initial approval to a bill that would prevent local law enforcement from enforcing a series of federal gun laws.

Sponsored by Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Republic, House Bill 85, titled the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” aims to empower “Missouri’s ability to self-govern without control by the federal government.”

The bill states that any federal gun law or act deemed to infringe on Missouri residents’ right to keep and bear arms in accordance with the Second Amendment cannot be enforced by state law officers. It lists a number of federal actions that would amount to infringement, including unique taxes on firearms, seizure of guns from law-abiding citizens and registration of firearms that may cause a chilling effect on their purchase.

“This isn’t a new bill,” Taylor said. “In 2013-2014, this legislature approved SAPA, they passed it through the House and Senate, went to the governor, that was Democrat (Jay) Nixon (who) vetoed the bill (and) we missed the override by one vote.”

Almost every session since, the bill has been reintroduced, ultimately failing to cross the finish line each time. Republican and Democrat lawmakers remain at odds over the implications of the legislation.

Numerous representatives discussed the bill and its amendments. Along with Taylor, a persistent voice was Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis City.

Initially, the bill would have held individual officers liable for violations of the act. After pushback, Taylor introduced an amendment, approved by the House, to allow people to sue police departments instead. Departments would face a $50,000 fine at minimum.

“The best way to get the department’s attention and to make sure that they follow this law to protect our citizens’ Second Amendment rights, is to hit them in the pocketbook,” Taylor said. “Hit them where it hurts. Make them think twice.”

Merideth pushed back. “I hear you say, when we disapprove of the way law enforcement agencies are behaving, we should hit them where?”

“Their pocketbooks,” Taylor responded.

“So in other words, if we don’t like the way a department is behaving, we should defund the police,” Merideth said.

“No gentleman, that’s not exactly what I’m saying at all.”

The back and forth between both sides of the aisle continued for nearly three hours.

Two hours into the hearing, the House Democratic Caucus released a statement.

“While Republicans debate nullifying federal gun laws, they actively ignored the scourge of gun violence that has plagued this state caused by their repeated repeals of restrictions on guns,” Assistant Minority Floor Leader Richard Brown, D-Kansas City, said. “Our caucus has solutions to the gun violence epidemic, and those bills ought to be heard on the floor of the Missouri House.”

Democrats also voiced concerns that the bill would be unconstitutional. Under the federal Supremacy Clause, federal law takes precedence over state laws and state constitutions.

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