Missouri Now Refuses to Enforce Certain Federal Gun Laws
Biden's Justice Department has some problems with this.
Missouri's Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed into law over the weekend the Second Amendment Preservation Act.
The law (Missouri House Bill 85) defines various federal laws that Missouri considers an inherent violation of its citizens' rights under the Second Amendment:
(1) Any tax, levy, fee, or stamp imposed on firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition not common to all other goods and services and that might reasonably be expected to create a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law abiding citizens;
(2) Any registration or tracking of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition;
(3) Any registration or tracking of the ownership of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition;
(4) Any act forbidding the possession, ownership, use, or transfer of a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition by law-abiding citizens; and
(5) Any act ordering the confiscation of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition from law-abiding citizens.
Such laws, the new Missouri law insists, "shall be invalid to this state, shall not be recognized by this state, shall be specifically rejected by this state, and shall not be enforced by this state….No entity or person, including any public officer or employee of this state or any political subdivision of this state, shall have the authority to enforce or attempt to enforce any federal acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders, rules, regulations,statutes, or ordinances infringing on the right to keep and bear arms."
Any "political subdivision or law enforcement agency that employs a law enforcement officer" who violates Missouri citizen's rights by enforcing laws like those listed above "shall be liable to the injured party in an action at law, [or] suit in equity…and subject to a civil penalty of fifty thousand dollars per occurrence. Any person injured under this section shall have standing to pursue an action for injunctive relief…."
Sovereign immunity, the law states, shall not apply. Hiring someone later on who had previously committed such rights violation also leaves the hiring "political subdivision or law enforcement agency…subject to a civil penalty of fifty thousand dollars per employee hired" and any citizen has standing to sue about that point.
Republican state Rep. Jered Taylor, a sponsor of the bill, told local TV Fox2 that he thinks the bill, which had been introduced before but didn't make it to law, passed now because the Biden administration is making people nervous about gun rights:
"We're going to enforce all the state laws that we have in relation to gun laws," Taylor said. "We're just not going to help the feds enforce some of their unconstitutional or things that will be coming that we've been threatened with this administration. I think the current administration and the Democrats being in control of the Senate and Congress has really kind of lit a fire under some of the Republicans in our party."
Among the most controversial aspects is the fact that Missouri state gun laws have no equivalent to federal prohibition of those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from legally possessing a weapon; the state does bar felons from legal ownership. The state does not require licenses or permits for buying or carrying weapons.
Jonathan Adler, law professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and a writer at the Volokh Conspiracy, argued on Twitter that while it is more than fine for state law enforcement agents to refuse to use time or resources enforcing federal laws, an aspect of the law that seems to bar state courts and judges from enforcing federal gun-related laws is likely unconstitutional, as is Missouri fining federal agencies for enforcing federal law in the state, per the holdings in McCulloch v. Maryland.
The Biden administration thinks aspects of this new Missouri law cannot stand. His Justice Department has already informed Missouri that "HB 85 threatens to immediately disrupt the working relationship between federal and state law enforcement officers, many of whom work shoulder-to-shoulder on various joint task forces, for which Missouri receives ample federal grants and other technical assistance"and "raises significant concerns under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution."
The Justice Department specifically wants the state to clarify that though the law says "No entity or person, including any public officer or employee of this state or any political subdivision of this state, shall have the authority" to enforce laws that violate the Second Amendment, that they don't mean to include federal officers under the prohibition (though the language seems to say that to this non-lawyer—it includes state officials which implies it also applies to as baldly stated any entity or person).
If the law "were construed to apply to federal officers operating in the State of Missouri," says Biden's DOJ, "then this section would violate the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity, which prohibits the states from regulating the federal government."
The part of the law that imposes potential fines on agencies that hire anyone who has violated Second Amendment rights also, DOJ insists,"appears to discriminate against federal law enforcement officers and others who worked with them….This kind of targeting of former federal employees and individuals who worked cooperatively with the federal government may well be unprecedented and raises significant concerns under the intergovernmental immunity doctrine."
These are issues that will doubtless be litigated in the future.