Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is considering signing a bill that would exempt the state from any new federal gun control laws. The state legislature passed the bill Wednesday making it a crime to enforce “all federal acts that infringe on a Missouri citizen’s rights under the Second Amendment."
The measure would criminalize the enforcement of federal gun laws, punishing federal agents who attempt to enforce any of those laws with up to four years in prison. The legislation includes an amendment to the state’s constitution that would make the right to bear arms “unalienable.”
Legislators in the Missouri House passed the bill with a vast majority, 118-36. The Senate passed the measure earlier this month.
State representatives crafted the bill in response to President Obama’s push for new federal gun control legislation and is part of a wave of laws pouring from statehouses across the country designed to broadly expand gun rights.
Lawmakers in other Republican-led legislatures in mostly southern states, including those in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas and Louisiana, have also pushed back against federal gun control efforts by introducing legislation that would in some form or another make guns easier to purchase, carry in more places, or exempt gun owners from the prospect of future federal regulations.
But laws that attempt to circumvent current or future federal laws are constitutionally problematic. Opponents of the laws and constitutional law scholars say any law that attempts to usurp the federal government could be in violation of the so-called “supremacy clause,” a clause in the U. S. Constitution that allows federal law to override state law.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently weighed in, warning Kansas Governor Sam Brownback that the federal government would challenge a new state law that would prohibit enforcement of federal gun laws on all weapons made and sold in-state.
"Kansas may not prevent federal employees and officials from carrying out their official responsibilities," Holder wrote in a letter to Brownback. "And a state certainly may not criminalize the exercise of federal responsibilities."
In Missouri, supporters say the measures shield law-abiding gun owners from federal overreach.
"We have the authority to enforce these laws. We are trying to position us so that we in this state can have safer neighborhoods," the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Doug Funderburk, told the Associated Press.
But opponents of the law said the bill also includes a litany of other provisions that enhance gun rights. Aside from nullifying federal gun laws; it would allow certain people to carry concealed weapons in school buildings, and allow people with gun permits to openly carry firearms less than 16 inches in length even in places where the open-carry of firearms is prohibited. The law would also lower the minimum age required to obtain a concealed weapons permit from 21 to 19.
Opponents also argued that the new legislation doesn’t attempt to address the myriad issues surrounding urban gun violence.
"I don't understand why this body continues to turn their back and ignore gun violence in order to increase access to weapons," Rep. Stacey Newman, a Democrat, told the AP.
The bill now awaits Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s signature.