JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt pushed back against the federal government in their response to the Department of Justice’s inquiry into the Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA): “We will not stand by while the federal government tries to tell Missourians how to live our lives.”
Parson and Schmitt responded to the federal government’s inquiry in their own seven-page letter Thursday regarding HB 85 which the governor signed into law Saturday. SAPA sought to declare federal laws that could restrict gun ownership among law-abiding Missourians as “invalid” in the state. It also said public officers and employees cannot enforce federal firearm laws that would be deemed invalid under this law, and those who do so could be subjected to a $50,000 penalty.
The Department of Justice sent a letter to the state’s Republican leaders this week seeking clarification on the new law and raising several concerns, including whether the state was attempting to void federal laws.
“Missouri is not attempting to nullify federal law. Instead, Missouri is defending its people from federal government overreach by prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from being used by the federal government to infringe Missourians’ right to keep and bear arms,” Parson and Schmitt said.
Their letter argued Missouri “has every right under our system of government and the Tenth Amendment to place limitations on what state and local officials may do,” It said the DOJ did not identify any conflicts SAPA created with restrictions on state activities and hiring practices when it comes to federal law.
Schmitt and Parson also accused the DOJ of conflicting its own policies when it comes to so-called sanctuary cities, places that limit cooperation with the federal government over immigration issues.
“President Biden and the Department of Justice have decided to reward states and cities that refuse to cooperate with enforcing constitutional immigration laws that protect our citizens against foreign threats, but now they attack Missouri for refusing to cooperate with enforcing unconstitutional gun confiscation laws that put our citizens in danger and degrade their rights. You cannot have it both ways,” the letter said.
The pair blasted the Biden administration for having a “radical, anti-gun position” and said the state would “fight tooth and nail” to defend SAPA and Second Amendment rights.
HB 85 specifically says taxes and fees imposed on guns, ammunition, or firearm accessories “not common to all other goods and services and that might reasonably be expected to create a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items” is to be considered an infringement on Missourians’ Second Amendment rights. Registration or tracking of guns and gun ownership also falls under that category, according to the bill’s text.
SAPA says federal acts deemed to be an infringement on individuals’ Second Amendment rights “shall be invalid in this state, shall not be recognized by this state, shall be specifically rejected by this state, and shall not be enforced by this state.”
The DOJ’s letter laid out five key areas of concern with HB 85, particularly as the bill “purports to declare unlawful federal firearms regulations.”
“Under our federal system, a state cannot nullify federal law,” it said. “Instead, where federal law conflicts with state law, state law is preempted.”
In particular, one point of concern with HB 85 is the domestic violence gun loophole. HB 85 defines “law-abiding citizen” using state law, but federal law prevents convicted domestic abusers from possessing a firearm.
Rep. Jered Taylor, HB 85’s author, said he believed the state to be on “great legal ground” with SAPA. He added he believes the new law “is going to hold up” should it be challenged in court.
“In my opinion, it seems as though they recognize what the intent of the law was which was to stop enforcing or helping to enforce federal gun laws, to protect Second Amendment rights in the state of Missouri while ensuring we do enforce Missouri law and the baddest of bad guys are put away to make sure we have safer streets in Missouri,” Taylor told The Missouri Times in an interview Thursday.
Parson and Schmitt also criticized the DOJ for having “leaked to the news media” its letter seeking clarification and said it was “riddled with a misunderstanding of the law and falsehoods.” Their response was sent in a press release Thursday afternoon.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.