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Missouri’s SAPA law: Where does it stand now?

As SAPA garners national media attention, here’s a look at where the law stands now

A new state law touted as a way to preserve Missourians’ gun rights has been met with pushback on the local and federal levels as it garners national media attention.

The Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA), which took effect in August, declared federal laws that could restrict gun ownership among law-abiding Missourians as “invalid.” It also dictated law enforcement officers could not enforce federal firearm regulations that could be deemed invalid under the law, holding departments financially liable for up to $50,000 if they do so.  

The St. Louis region and Jackson County sued to stop the law from going into effect, but a Cole County judge sided with the state, allowing the measure to pass into law. 

St. Louis’ lawsuit was appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court though the high court has yet to take up the challenge. 

“I think the law has a good chance of succeeding. We wrote it in a constitutional way that should prove to be victorious,” Rep. Jared Taylor, who sponsored the bill in the lower chamber, told The Missouri Times Monday. “I have a feeling we will be successful wherever this goes, whether it’s before the Missouri or even the United States Supreme Court.”

The federal government has also decried SAPA: Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Gov. Mike Parson faced off with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) while the federal agency urged the court to strike down the new law in August. A statement of interest from DOJ alleged the measure violated the federal Supremacy Clause and decried the negative impact it could have on law enforcement. 

Frederic Winston, the special agent leading the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Kansas City Field Division, also sounded off on the bill’s effect on law enforcement in an August court filing. Winston said looming risks associated with SAPA had led to the withdrawal of many state and local officers — including from the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Columbia and Sedalia police departments — from ATF operations. 

But Taylor said the law was positively received by many local law enforcement officers, noting he would support educating Missouri officers to ensure they understood the ins and outs of SAPA to assuage their concerns. 

The bill was similarly contentious during its time in the legislature, with both chambers passing it along party lines after extensive debate. A priority of both House and Senate leadership, the measure was one of the last to cross the finish line as the session drew to a close. 

An attempted bipartisan amendment was made in the legislature to close the so-called domestic violence gun loophole in Missouri. It would have allowed a court to prohibit an individual from possessing or purchasing a gun while a full order of protection was in place following a conviction of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense. 

The law recently received national media attention in a feature on “60 Minutes” Sunday which highlighted concerns from both Democrats and Republicans. 

Butler County Prosecutor Kacey Proctor, a gun owner and Second Amendment proponent, said the law restricted local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with their federal counterparts. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, a Democrat, pointed to rising violent crime rates in Missouri’s cities. 

“On a night in Kansas City, you can have multiple people shot. In the same way that if you have a severe storm hit a city, we bring in federal resources to help us with that crisis,” Lucas told CBS’ Norah O’Donnell. “This is the problem with gun violence right now in some of America’s major cities — particularly in the Midwest, particularly in Missouri.”