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Debate over penalties may stall Missouri bill to nullify federal gun laws

Debate over penalties may stall Missouri bill to nullify federal gun laws

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JEFFERSON CITY   •   A measure to declare federal gun regulations unconstitutional in the state of Missouri was again approved by the House but may not come up again in the Senate for final approval.

The bill, titled the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” would allow Missouri residents to sue law enforcement officers for enforcing any federal gun laws that infringe on Second Amendment rights, among other firearms-related provisions.

Critics of the measure have charged it is unconstitutional and would nullify all federal gun laws in the state.

The Senate-passed version included a penalty provision for state or local officers enforcing gun regulations that were found to violate a Missouri citizen’s Second Amendment rights. It would bar the law enforcement officer from ever being employed by the state of Missouri or any local government in the state again.

Rep. Doug Funderburk, R-St. Charles, said he removed that provision in the new version approved by the House Tuesday. Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, who has handled the bill in the Senate, supported that penalty and did not sign the conference report.

Nieves said leaving out the penalty provision made the bill “too different” and he did not plan to bring it up on the Senate floor at all unless something changed.

“There’s nothing in the bill now that would create the healthy pause we were looking for,” Nieves said. “Once I saw there were no more teeth I knew I wasn’t going to bring it up.”

Funderburk said he would not back down on removing the penalties for police officers. He said he’d made a commitment to law enforcement officers that he would do nothing to make it harder for them to do their jobs or partner with federal authorities. On the House floor, he said the penalty could deny a life-long calling to someone who just made a mistake.

“I don’t want to risk a good law enforcement officer’s career in the potential that they made a one-time mistake in carrying out their duties,” Funderburk said.

Another key change in the new version approved by the House would put into state law a provision already in place at the federal law, adding individuals with orders of protection against them to those who are not permitted to possess a firearm. Funderburk said this was added because of concerns about the safety of domestic violence victims.

“Just being able to secure the safety of the spouse and children, home and property if there’s been determined to be a credible threat is I think a reasonable step,” Funderburk said.

Rep. Judy Morgan, D-Kansas City, said she opposed the bill because it would nullify federal gun laws. Funderburk countered that it would only apply to those declared unconstitutional.

“So every case is going to have to go to court?” Morgan asked Funderburk, who said there was a “loser pays” provision to prevent frivolous lawsuits.

“The federal crime of selling guns or ammunition to folks like felons or those with mental illness would be null and void in this state,” Morgan said. “I don’t want law enforcement being sued for enforcing the law.”

The bill also includes provisions lowering the conceal carry permit age, allowing school districts to authorize teachers to carry guns at school and barring cities and counties from prohibiting those with conceal carry permits to openly carry guns. These provisions have also been added to several other bills currently moving through the Legislature.

The House approved the measure 109-42.

(The bill is HB 1439.)

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