JEFFERSON CITY — After almost three hours of debate on Tuesday, the Missouri Senate shelved a plan to invalidate federal gun laws after facing intense pushback from Democrats who worried the proposed law would imperil crime-fighting partnerships between local and federal authorities.
Debate spiraled to an end shortly before 8 p.m., when the Senate paused debate following an amendment by Sen. Doug Beck, D-south St. Louis County, that would have banned the transfer of guns to individuals on the FBI’s No Fly List.
Beck said his amendment also banned the transfer of guns to individuals who are members of a group “that engages in or has a subgroup that engages in international or domestic terrorism” — a seeming reference to some militias such as one in Michigan that plotted to kidnap the state’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The amendment took debate off course, with GOP Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, arguing some military veterans could be prevented from buying firearms under the proposal; he also criticized the militia-focused portion of Beck’s amendment.
“The actual signers of the Declaration (of Independence) were considered domestic terrorists at that time as well,” Brattin said.
The measure, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, seeks to invalidate federal laws or other actions deemed to infringe on a person’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.
It would allow individuals to sue local police departments and governments, making them liable for a $50,000 civil penalty, if the local agency “knowingly deprives a citizen of Missouri of the rights or privileges ensured by” the Second Amendment.
Burlison said the measure “is the line in the sand that we should draw,” he said. “Those politicians in Washington, D.C., can pass, and are attempting to pass, whatever crazy, wild-eyed ideas that they have. But with this law in place, Missouri will have nothing to do with what they pass.”
With Democratic President Joe Biden in the White House, and both houses of Congress controlled by Democrats, the effort has generated more attention this year compared to other recent legislative sessions.
Local law enforcement, including the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, has voiced concerns in the past, saying an earlier version of the bill could imperil local officials’ ability to work with federal authorities.
Critics of similar proposals in years past have noted courts have ruled federal laws cannot be nullified by the states.
Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, said during debate she would offer an amendment stating the bill wouldn’t apply to St. Louis, arguing for local control. She said she might amend it so it wouldn’t apply to any local police department.
“Don’t tie their hands,” May said. “If you want to tie the hands of the state troopers, by all means, tie the hands of the state troopers.”
Burlison said his measure prevents local law enforcement from being “commandeered” into enforcing federal laws “not on the books in Missouri.”
He compared his push to medical marijuana activists pushing to legalize medical marijuana here in 2018; the drug remains illegal federally but card-carrying patients in Missouri are allowed to possess marijuana under state law.
The legislation is Senate Bill 39.
Updated at 8:30 p.m.