JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Jan. 27, 2022) – Nearly 60 Missouri police chiefs have backed a lawsuit to block a Missouri law that ended state and local enforcement of a wide range of federal gun control measures; past, present and future.
Last summer, Gov. Mike Parson’s signed House Bill 85 into law. Known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA), 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. The law 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.
HB85 passed despite intense law enforcement opposition. Now, powerful law enforcement groups are working to get the law blocked by the courts.
The group of police chiefs putting their support behind the lawsuit that would block enforcement of some provisions of the law are from St. Louis Area Police Chiefs Association and the Missouri Police Chiefs Association. According to KOMU, the claim the Second Amendment Preservation Act is “vague and confusing, hampers criminal investigations and is contrary to state and federal law.” In a statement, the police chiefs associations said they don’t want to overturn the law, but they want to “ensure that law enforcement return to operating and functioning as it always has.”
In other words, these police chiefs want to continue enforcing unconstitutional gun control along with their “federal partners” just as they always have. They want to maintain the status quo. And the status quo is partnering with the feds to violate the Second Amendment.
According to KOMU, “The move follows multiple failed attempts by police, prosecutors and federal law enforcement officials to get the Missouri Legislature to make changes to the law.”
This is simply not true. Legislators and grassroots activists worked with police lobbyists and made several changes to the legislation in order to address law enforcement concerns. But no matter what compromises were made, law enforcement lobbyists continued to oppose the legislation.
Interestingly, despite the police chief statement claiming the Second Amendment Preservation Act violates federal law, the lawsuit apparently doesn’t challenge the constitutionality of SAPA. Bob Sweeny is one of the lawyers who filed the suit. He told KOMU, “I’m not challenging the constitutionality or viability of the legislation. I’m asking the court to explain what it means and which statutes we should follow.”
This seems like a round-about way of blocking SAPA. But they have to take a round-about route because the constitutionality of the law isn’t disputable.
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.
So, opponents of your right to keep and bear arms have to find other ways to challenge the law. But make no mistake, they want the law struck down or at least neutered. They want the status quo. They want to enforce federal gun control.