Missouri lawmakers pass ban on enforcement of federal gun laws, sending bill to Parson

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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson will decide whether to prohibit state and local police officers from enforcing a host of federal firearms restrictions after lawmakers on Friday approved a ban long sought by conservative gun owners fearful of future overreach by liberal politicians in Washington.

Gun registration requirements, firearm tracking rules and limits on certain people having guns — all of it would be “invalid” in Missouri under the sweeping Second Amendment Preservation Act.

The bill is the culmination of a nearly decade-long effort by Missouri Republicans to mollify concerns among gun owners that the federal government in the future will confiscate firearms or severely limit them. President Joe Biden’s election set off a new wave of fears, even as gun control advocates have been unable to pass even modest restrictions in recent years.

“We are doing this bill because the Second Amendment is under attack. It’s under attack by the Democrats, specifically the Biden administration and the Democrats in Washington,” Rep. Jered Taylor, a Republic Republican.

The House passed the bill 111-42 on Friday after the Senate passed it 22-10 Thursday night.

Critics said the measure would prevent police from partnering with the federal government on violent drug-or trafficking-related crimes, and that it violates the U.S. Constitution. Missouri had the third-highest per-capita rate of gun deaths in the nation last year, when 689 people were shot and killed across the state. It was likely the deadliest year ever for gun violence in Missouri.

Rep. Peter Merideth, a St. Louis Democrat, said a rise in fringe thinking has accompanied a rise in violent crime in Missouri and the nation.

Invoking the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Merideth said “passing bills like this with unanimous support by the majority party emboldens the people with these really outside views.”

The bill bars local police from assisting federal agents in enforcing those laws and prohibits them from hiring former federal agents who had enforced them. There would be exceptions for cases in which the federal agents are enforcing gun restrictions that also exist in Missouri law.

About a dozen states have pursued similar measures and Arizona passed its own bill earlier this year. Interest in invalidating federal gun laws has risen as Biden has issued executive orders tightening regulation of homemade “ghost guns,” which lack serial numbers, and a device that allows a pistol to operate more like a rifle.

The Biden administration has also encouraged states to adopt “red flag” laws that allow families or police to ask judges to temporarily confiscate guns from people who demonstrate “extreme risks” to themselves or others. The idea has gained little traction in Missouri over the past five years.

“Our constitution is a binding contract with the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, a Columbia Republican, said, adding it “can’t be disregarded just to suit the interests of whoever holds the power in Washington.”

Sen. Eric Burlison, a Battlefield Republican who pushed for the bill’s passage, has said it would protect Missourians from federal overreach.

“We’re not eliminating federal firearms laws in Missouri,” he said. “We’re just simply saying we’re not going to lift a finger to enforce their rules.”

Law enforcement groups in Missouri had been ambivalent about the proposal. They expressed concerns over provisions that would allow those who believe a law enforcement agency has violated someone’s Second Amendment rights by enforcing federal gun restrictions to sue departments for $50,000.

But the Missouri Sheriff’s Association ultimately appeared alongside Senate leaders in a celebratory news conference. Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz suggested their presence could go a long way in helping Parson, a former sheriff, feel comfortable signing the bill into law.

Lawmakers took until almost the literal last minute to pass the bill, with the House voting less than an hour before the end of session on Friday. The bill had come under a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, with Democrats trying to close what gun control advocates call a loophole allowing domestic abusers to get guns.

The prohibition against gun possession for a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction is part of federal law, but when Missouri passed a permitless concealed carry law in 2016, sheriffs were no longer conducting background checks.

Republicans ultimately voted down the Democratic amendments.