Missouri banned police from enforcing federal gun laws. A judge ruled that's unconstitutional
A federal judge struck down a controversial law Tuesday that would penalize Missouri police for enforcing federal gun laws.
U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes ruled Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA) unconstitutional and said it violated the standard that federal law trumps state law.
The Missouri statute is an “unconstitutional (violation of) federal law and is designed to be just that,” Wimes wrote.
The law allowed citizens to file suit for up to $50,000 if they believed that enforcement of federal gun laws violated their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.
“SAPA exposes citizens to greater harm by interfering with the Federal Government’s ability to enforce lawfully enacted firearm regulations designed by Congress for the purpose of protecting citizens with the limits of the Constitution, Wimes wrote in his 24-page opinion.
The U.S. Justice Department originally filed suit a year ago to prevent Missouri from enforcing the law passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and signed by Gov. Mike Parson.
The Justice Department complained that Missouri’s law hindered cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement. In a statement, the department cited local police agencies leaving joint federal task forces as an example of the fallout from the law’s passage.
Former Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt had called the Justice Department’s lawsuit “partisan” and said President Joe Biden’s administration put “politics ahead of public safety” by filing the challenge to the state law.
“The Biden Department of Justice has now filed yet another partisan lawsuit that seeks to attack Missourians’ Second Amendment rights,” Schmitt said.
In a statement, current Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey said his office plans to appeal the decision and is prepared to defend the preservation act at the highest court, anticipating a better result in the Eighth Circuit than it got from the U.S. District of Western Missouri on Tuesday.
“The Second Amendment is what makes the rest of the amendments possible. If the state legislature wants to expand upon the foundational rights codified in the Second Amendment, they have the authority to do that,” Bailey said in a statement. “But SAPA is also about the Tenth Amendment (that leaves some powers to the states). It’s about federalism and individual liberty.”
The Justice Department’s suit is the third challenge to the law since it was passed in 2021. Since then, the ban on enforcing federal gun laws has drawn leagues of critics, ranging from law enforcement agencies to gun control advocates.
In response to the lawsuit, St. Louis, St. Louis County and Jackson County filed suit to block the law in 2021. A separate suit filed by the city of Arnold, a St. Louis suburb, was backed by 60 Missouri police chiefs who said the law needed clarification so police know which federal agencies they can and cannot work with.
“The Second Amendment Preservation Act belongs in the dustbin of history, remembered only as a uniquely awful and harmful piece of legislation,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted Tuesday.
In a joint statement, St. Louis City Mayor Tishaura Jones, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. called the decision “encouraging” and called for Missouri’s legislature to enact common-sense gun safety measures.
Allison Anderman, senior counsel and director of local policy for the gun control advocacy group Giffords, called Wimes' ruling a victory for gun control advocates.
Anderman said laws like Missouri’s are spreading quickly throughout the country. Currently, a dozen states are considering the legislation and two states, Alaska and Idaho, have already passed similar laws.
“In recent years, legislators have upped the ante and started trying to invalidate federal law by going after their very own law enforcement officers,” Anderman said.
In Missouri, Anderman said the law made it more difficult for law enforcement to do their work and made life more dangerous for its citizens.
“In Missouri, in particular, we have seen all sorts of cooperation between local and state law enforcement with federal law enforcement agencies grind to a halt, “ Anderman said. ”What that really does is put lives in jeopardy.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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