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Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

Justice Department Says Missouri's New 2nd Amendment Law Is ‘Legally Invalid’

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson shows off HB85, which he signed inside Frontier Justice gun shop in Lee's Summit, Mo., on Sat., June 12. The bill prevents local and state law enforcement officials from enforcing federal gun laws.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson shows off HB85, which he signed inside Frontier Justice gun shop in Lee's Summit, Mo., on Sat., June 12. The bill prevents local and state law enforcement officials from enforcing federal gun laws.

The Justice Department on Wednesday weighed in on Missouri’s law barring enforcement of federal gun laws, flatly declaring it “legally invalid.”

In a so-called statement of interest filed with the Cole County court that’s considering the law’s legality, the department urged the court to block enforcement of the law.

The case will be heard Thursday afternoon at 1:30 before Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Richard Green.

The law, called the Second Amendment Preservation Act, levies a $50,000 fine on any state or local official who enforces a federal gun law that’s not also a Missouri law. It also declares federal laws that infringe on the Second Amendment as invalid in Missouri.

The law’s penalties are set to take effect on Aug. 28.

Jackson County, St. Louis and St. Louis County have challenged the law, HB85, which Missouri Gov. Parson signed on June 12 at the Frontier Justice gun shop in Lee’s Summit.

In its statement of interest, the Justice Department advanced two main arguments for blocking the law.

First, it stated, the law undermines law enforcement activities in Missouri, “including valuable partnerships federal agencies have developed with state and local jurisdictions.”

As an example, the department cited several state and local law enforcement agencies that have indicated they will no longer input data into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, or NIBIN, which enables investigators to match ballistics evidence in cases nationwide.

“In the last three years, NIBIN has helped law enforcement officers in Missouri generate over 6,000 leads, including 3,149 leads in jurisdictions outside of where the lead was sourced,” the department stated.

The department also noted that federal firearm licensees have expressed confusion since the law was passed about their federal recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

Secondly, the Justice Department argued that the law runs afoul of the federal Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which gives federal law precedence over state laws and bars states from interfering with the federal government’s exercise of its constitutional powers.

Republican lawmakers who championed the law claimed they were concerned the Biden administration would tighten gun restrictions.

Other states have passed similar laws, although Missouri’s seemed to go one step further by imposing penalties on law enforcement officers who attempt to enforce federal gun laws.

The Justice Department previously sent a letter to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt warning them that the law conflicted with federal laws and regulations and threatened the federal government’s working relationships with local law enforcement agencies.

Schmitt, who’s seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Roy Blunt, and Parson responded by accusing the Biden administration of trying to “tell Missourians how to live our lives.”

The case in Cole County has drawn widespread interest. On Wednesday, six gun rights groups, including the Missouri Firearms Coalition, asked the court to allow them to file briefs in the case.

Copyright 2021 KCUR 89.3

Dan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and moved to Kansas City with his family when he was eight years old. He majored in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis and holds law and journalism degrees from Boston University. He has been an avid public radio listener for as long as he can remember – which these days isn’t very long… Dan has been a two-time finalist in The Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, and has won multiple regional awards for his legal and health care coverage. Dan doesn't have any hobbies as such, but devours one to three books a week, assiduously works The New York Times Crossword puzzle Thursdays through Sundays and, for physical exercise, tries to get in a couple of rounds of racquetball per week.