JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (June 12, 2021) – After eight years of tireless effort by dedicated grassroots activists, today Missouri ended state and local enforcement of a wide range of federal gun control measures; past, present and future. With Gov. Mike Parson’s signature on the Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA), Missouri took an important step toward ending federal acts that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms within the state.
Rep. Jered Taylor filed House Bill 85 (HB85) on Dec 1, with companions sponsored by Rep. Bishop Davidson and Sen. Eric Burlison. The new law bans any entity or person, including any public officer or employee of the state and its political subdivisions, from enforcing any past, present or future federal “acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders, court orders, rules, regulations, statutes, or ordinances” that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms.
HB85 passed the House in February by a 103-43 vote. After being stalled for weeks, clearing a big hurdle to get a committee hearing and a vote, and a long filibuster attempt by Democrats, the Senate approved the measure on May 13 by a 24-10 vote with some amendments. In one of its final acts of the 2021 session, the House gave final approval the next day by a 111-42 vote. Gov. Parsons signed the bill today and the law goes into immediate effect.
“What we’re doing today is taking a stand against a tyrannical federal government,” said Burlison. “We are telling this president that he can go pound sand.”
“It is our job to protect the 2nd Amendment,” said Parsons. “The states are the firewall to the federal government.”
A LONG PATH
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. Today, that hard work and perseverance paid off.
“If this were left to legislators, this never would’ve been done. This bill is because of the efforts of the grassroots,” said Taylor.
DETAILS OF THE LEGISLATION
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.
“We are doing this bill because the 2nd Amendment is under attack,” Taylor said. “This bill is gun policy agnostic. We are saying in our state, we know what’s best for our state.”
As Calzone explained, “SAPA is designed to prevent wholesale federal gun control, like an ‘assault weapon’ confiscation, since such an effort would require cooperation from local officials.”
The legislation includes a provision that allows anybody who violates the law and knowingly deprives somebody of their right to keep and bear arms as defined by the law to be sued for damages in civil court.
Law enforcement agencies and political subdivisions in Missouri are now subject to a civil penalty of not less than $50,000 for enforcing or attempting to enforce any of the infringements outlined by the law or for giving material aid and support to such enforcement efforts.
“We want to make sure that your rights are protected and there are enforcement mechanisms,” said Taylor.
The federal government relies heavily on state cooperation to implement and enforce almost all of its laws, regulations and acts – including gun control. By simply withdrawing this necessary cooperation, states and localities can nullify many federal actions in effect. As noted by the National Governors’ Association during the partial government shutdown of 2013, “states are partners with the federal government on most federal programs.”
Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” represents an extremely effective method to bring down federal gun control measures because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from state and local governments.
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed. In a televised discussion on the issue, he noted that a single state taking this step would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.
“Partnerships don’t work too well when half the team quits,” said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. “By withdrawing all resources and participation in federal gun control, states and even local governments can help bring these unconstitutional acts to their much-needed end.”
“One fundamental feature of our government is the separation of powers,” Davidson said on the House floor before the final vote. “I hope that this bill is just one step towards restoring that balance.”
The state of Missouri can legally bar state agents from enforcing federal gun control. Refusal to cooperate with federal enforcement rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine.
Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program. The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on five Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. U.S. serves as the cornerstone.
“We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policy making is involved, and no case by case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty”
No determination of constitutionality is necessary to invoke the anti-commandeering doctrine. State and local governments can refuse to enforce federal laws or implement federal programs whether they are constitutional or not.
With SAPA now in effect, how it plays out in practice will only be determined by human action – those who are willing to exercise their rights, those who are willing to keep the pressure on law enforcement to ensure they’re held accountable, and those who are willing to start taking the next steps to remove more gun control from Missouri state law in the coming years.
The ATF has a pdf document that lists and details all state-level gun control measures in Missouri and would act as a handy guide for what could be repealed in the future.
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