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A Second Amendment Showdown Is Shaping up Between Missouri and the Biden Administration

Missouri has a Republican super-majority in both its House and its Senate. Given that, you'd think that passing legislation that aligns with the Republican agenda would be a given. That isn't true on all issues, but it was borne out this year when the legislature passed the Second Amendment Preservation Act (“SAPA”) — which was then signed into law by Missouri Governor Mike Parson on June 12, 2021.

This follows similar moves by local governments, such as Newton County, as reported by my colleague Jennifer Oliver O'Connell earlier this year.

But even SAPA's passage was no easy feat. As noted by The Tenth Amendment Center:

Passage of SAPA is the culmination of eight years of effort by grassroots activists in Missouri, led by Ron Calzone at Missouri First.

In 2013, then-Governor Jay Nixon vetoed an early incarnation of the Second Amendment Preservation Act. Ultimately, the House overrode the veto but it failed in the Senate by one vote. In subsequent years, similar bills ran into insurmountable hurdles including intense law enforcement opposition and Republican leadership too squeamish to take a stand against the feds.

But activists and supporters of the Second Amendment in the Show-Me State kept pushing, and with the leadership and support of Dave Roland at the Freedom Center of Missouri, they kept improving the legislation and pressuring legislators.

So, what exactly is SAPA? In a nutshell, it's a law that prohibits the enforcement of federal provisions that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms. More details:

The bill includes a detailed definition of actions that qualify as “infringement,” including but not limited to:

taxes and fees on firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition not common to all other goods and services that would have a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;
registration and tracking schemes applied to firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition;
any act forbidding the possession, ownership, or use or transfer of a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition by law-abiding citizens;
any act ordering the confiscation of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition from law-abiding citizens.

The law defines a “law-abiding citizen” as “a person who is not otherwise precluded under state law from possessing a firearm.”

Under the law, infringements on the right to keep and bear arms include the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968, Pres. Trump's bump-stock ban, proposed federal “red-flag laws,” and any future gun control schemes implemented by the federal government.

So, a nice win for the Second Amendment in the Show-Me State.

Oh, wait — “Not so fast!” says the Biden Justice Department.

Per the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is warning Missouri officials that the state can't ignore federal law, after the governor signed a bill last week that bans police from enforcing federal gun rules.

In a letter sent Wednesday night and obtained by The Associated Press, Justice officials said the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause outweighs the measure that Gov. Mike Parson signed into law Saturday. The new rules penalize local police departments if their officers enforce federal gun laws.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton said the law threatens to disrupt the working relationship between federal and local authorities, they said in the letter, noting that Missouri receives federal grants and technical assistance.

….

The Justice Department argued in the letter that the state lacks the authority to shield any Missouri businesses or citizens from federal law or to prevent federal law enforcement officials from carrying out their duties.

Boynton said the bill “conflicts with federal firearms laws and regulation” and federal law would supersede the state's new statute. He said federal agents and the U.S. attorney's offices in the state would continue to enforce all federal firearms laws and regulations. He asked that Parson and Eric Schmitt, the state's attorney general, clarify the law and how it would work in a response by Friday.

Sounds like this is setting up a bit of a showdown. Who's got the winning hand here? As noted above, this legislation has been in the works for years — it wasn't just thrown together haphazardly. And I anticipate our Attorney General, Eric Schmitt, who's been a bulldog when it comes to taking on the current administration, will have an appropriate response.

Cam Edwards, over at our sister site, Bearing Arms, had this to say about the constitutionality of the provision:

There's nothing unconstitutional about the new Second Amendment Preservation Act. In fact, it fits squarely within the Court's precedent in Printz vs. U.S., which held that state and local law enforcement are under no obligation to perform the duties of federal law enforcement. Missouri's Second Amendment Preservation Act is comparable to California's Sanctuary State law, which forbids state and local governments from cooperating with ICE in most cases. The Supreme Court upheld California's law last summer, and if they have the opportunity to weigh in on the Missouri law, I'm sure the justices will do the same.

The parallel to sanctuary cities in the immigration context is hard to escape (I suspect intentionally so). A similar comparison could also be made to states who have opted to legalize marijuana. In that context, the feds have recently declared enforcement of the federal prohibition against it is no longer a priority. (It's almost as if DOJ has a political agenda?!)

So, how will this all play out? I'm sure it will prove interesting.

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