Missouri Gun Bill to Block Feds Faces National Scrutiny Once Again: "Statehouse Swagger"

Thumbnail image for gun-show-file-image.jpg
Michael Glasgow photo via Flickr
The Missouri GOP's effort to block federal firearm laws is once again receiving national scrutiny this week in advance of the upcoming showdown between Governor Jay Nixon and pro-gun lawmakers at the Capitol. The legislation -- which Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed -- would make it a crime to enforce any federal policies in the state that infringe on the right to bear arms. Nixon and other critics argue that it is very clearly unconstitutional for the state to pass a law directly contradicting the feds, while proponents say Missouri has an obligation to stand up to the president.

The New York Times editorial board is now weighing in, saying it's a case of "statehouse swagger" in the gun debates. Today's editorial -- which follows a lengthy story in the paper's news section on the legislation -- casts the bill as one of the most extreme of its kind in the country.

The renewed attention is timely given that Republicans may very well get enough votes to override the governor and implement the controversial law.

See also: St. Louis Firm May Sue Over "Unconstitutional" Missouri Bill to Block Feds' Gun Laws

The editorial begins, "As a measure of the gun culture's dangerous sway over statehouse politicians, it is hard to top the pending proposal in Missouri that would pronounce all federal gun safety laws null and void in the state and allow the arrest of federal agents who try to enforce them."

In June, an Associated Press news report labeled House Bill 436, the "Second Amendment Preservation Act," as one of the most intense state's rights efforts in the country.

gov-jay-nixon-press-photo.jpg
via governor.mo.gov
Gov. Jay Nixon.

Part of the reason all eyes are on the legislation is that a handful of Democrats who support the bill may help the GOP make it a reality next month without the governor's approval.

The Times editorial says:

This bizarre legislation, which Republican majorities hope to enact Sept. 11, would override an earlier veto by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, who noted the obvious fact that the measure is unconstitutional according to precedents stretching all the way to the Civil War.

But the bill's proponents care little for legal niceties, or for the near-certainty of an adverse court ruling against their hoary states'-rights gambit. Dusting off the polemics of nullification, the supposed "law and order" politicians in Jefferson City would rather support an unconstitutional measure than set a law-abiding example of government responsibility.

Some supporters of the bill respond to its critics by arguing that this effort is not so different from the legalization of marijuana in states like Colorado and Washington, which passed these laws in contradiction with federal policy. In its news report, the Times addressed this question, pointing out a key difference:

What distinguishes the Missouri gun measure from the marijuana initiatives is its attempt to actually block federal enforcement by setting criminal penalties for federal agents, and prohibiting state officials from cooperating with federal efforts. That crosses the constitutional line, said Robert A. Levy, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute's board of directors -- a state cannot frustrate the federal government's attempts to enforce its laws.

While the supportive Democrats have gotten a fair amount of attention, State Rep. Jay Barnes has also received a lot of media as the sole Republican opposing the bill. Yesterday, Barnes published a post on his website reiterating his stance, writing, "The bill is plainly unconstitutional and has no chance of being upheld."

progress-missouri-facebook-guns.jpg
via Facebook
Advocacy group Progress Missouri's online campaign against the Second Amendment Preservation Act.

He further argues:

...there's not a single instance case in two centuries of constitutional case law in which a federal appellate court has upheld a single state's authority to (1) declare a federal statute unconstitutional on its own, and (2) criminalize the enforcement of a federal law by federal agents.

For more on the debate, check out Daily RFT's interview with a supporter who helped draft the language of the measure and our interview with a St. Louis lawyer who may sue if the override is successful.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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44 comments
Jim Kauffman
Jim Kauffman

It would appear that Obama, despite other policy decisions, has made the right move in partially decriminalizing cannabis.

Marc Seleman
Marc Seleman

My point is the federal government has consistently overstepped the bounds of the rights granted to the federal government within the constitution. Unfortunately the supreme court has always upheld any challenge to that. Most of this has occurred under the guise of the commerce clause. That does not mean this was the intent of the framers of the constitution though.

Nathan Nico Vize
Nathan Nico Vize

Read the 14th Amendment Marc, that way of reading the Constitution lost the civil war.

King Stitches
King Stitches

For any Federal Law trying to infringe on my God giving rights to bare Arms is a SiN.

John Heidbrink
John Heidbrink

I don't recall the second amendment, or any other constitutional amendment mentioning marijuana.. just saying...

Jeff Willett
Jeff Willett

...there's not a single instance case in two centuries of constitutional case law in which a federal appellate court has upheld a single state's authority to (1) declare a federal statute unconstitutional on its own, and (2) criminalize the enforcement of a federal law by federal agents.

Jeff Willett
Jeff Willett

Ridiculous waste of taxpayer money and the state and federal time. ...there's not a single instance case in two centuries of constitutional case law in which a federal appellate court has upheld a single state's authority to (1) declare a federal statute unconstitutional on its own, and (2) criminalize the enforcement of a federal law by federal agents.

Clyde Rhoads
Clyde Rhoads

@Brian Brown; Priority or not.. That's the same as saying prosecute [one race] because its more dangerous than [another race].

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

pot leads to munchies and that leads to obesity which is WAY more important to queen obama that the 500 people murdered with guns in chicago last year. pot is way more dangerous.

Brian Brown
Brian Brown

Well priority is guns over the other . One is dangerous the other not so Much

Clyde Rhoads
Clyde Rhoads

Ive been saying this all along. Why when its marihuana, does the Feds not kick and scream supremacy, but when it's about guns, the Feds want it their way or no way. You can't pick and choose, it's all or none.

Marc Seleman
Marc Seleman

Last I checked the constitution gives most of the rights to govern to the states. The federal government has overstepped its bounds.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

you must have missed where i said "i don't mean from some site like "we-are-liberals.com"?" those are nutty liberal sites.

Alex Peck
Alex Peck

Good!Shoot first,ask questions later you hippie freaks!!

Marquisha Washington
Marquisha Washington

Article VI of the United States Constitution, the document that gun advocates always quote regarding their right to bear arms, states that federal law is the supreme law of the land and the judges in every state shall be bound to federal law. It's not pick or choose. You either SUPPORT the Constitution (all of it) or not. For Missouri to attempt to block any federal law, it's 100% unconstitutional under the provisions of Article VI.

Kenneth Lee M
Kenneth Lee M

Unlike fauxconservatives who can sit by the computer for hours trolling ... it's Saturday night leave the trailer!

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

you'll notice that it's been about 5 hours and nathan has yet to respond to his moronic comments. that's what liberals do. they say stupid things they can't back up and then run away.

Josh Carter
Josh Carter

"crazy tea party criminals" when was the last time one of these targeted civilians overseas with "double-tap" drone strikes? people who think rednecks with guns are a pandemic of violence have a lot of gall, or ignorance, or both...

Joe Tittiger
Joe Tittiger

It's total bull shit.. have NICS checks due to the 1968 gun control act stopped?

Elaphrosaurus Morgan
Elaphrosaurus Morgan

i support it :) the second amendment says right to bare arms not right to bare arms to a point, anyone saying its unconstitutional is violating our second amendment

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

"or the ones that stormed our nation's capital with an armed demonstration" and i am unaware this ever happened. can you please provide some kind of proof of it? and i don't mean from some site like "we-are-liberals.com"?

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

"You mean the crazy tea party criminals that shot Gabrielle Giffords" the guy that shot giffords was not in the tea party, you moron.

Nathan Nico Vize
Nathan Nico Vize

You mean the crazy tea party criminals that shot Gabrielle Giffords or the ones that stormed our nation's capital with an armed demonstration where they referred to our heroes in the armed services as the enemy?

Blake Harris
Blake Harris

Nullification FTW!!! Federal gun laws are only supposed to affect interstate commerce so if you have a machine gun made in MO that never leaves you don't have to abide, try telling them that, they'll give you 10 years

Ed Anderson
Ed Anderson

i support all my firearms...and my right to carry, and protect myself and my family

Will Alarie
Will Alarie

violent criminals sometimes live in houses, which they then use as an excuse to kill someone.

Will Alarie
Will Alarie

"we reserve the right to kill you if we feel like it that day"

Michael Tucker
Michael Tucker

Wasting our (see how 'our' is spelled Derek?) time and making us look like backwoods idiots.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

if only nutty liberals were as concerned with violent criminals walking our streets as they were them "crazy tea party people".

Derek Qualls
Derek Qualls

I think It needs to be blocked to protect are rights . Just enforce the gun laws already on the books . Not make new ones . And what

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