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SAPA could be harmful to domestic violence victims, MOCADSV warns

The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence urged the Missouri Supreme Court to strike down the new, controversial gun law, noting the impact the Second Amendment Preservation Act has on a domestic abuser’s ability to acquire a firearm. 

The Second Amendment Preservation Act, dubbed SAPA, took effect in late August. It declares federal laws that could restrict gun ownership among law-abiding Missourians as “invalid” and restricts law enforcement officers from enforcing federal firearm regulations that could be deemed invalid under the law. 

As the coalition (MOCADSV) noted in its amicus brief filed last week, Missouri statute contains what has been dubbed a domestic violence gun loophole. This loophole was created in 2016 when the state expanded concealed carry, doing away with permits. Language preventing individuals convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or the respondent of a full order of protection from possessing a gun became essentially null since it was triggered through the concealed carry permit process. 

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in both chambers unsuccessfully attempted to fix the loophole during the previous legislative session. Sen. Lauren Arthur, a Democrat, and Rep. Ron Hicks, a Republican, have said they will attempt to do so again this coming session. 

In its brief, the MOCADSV said although state law has contained this loophole for several years now, victims were still afforded some level of protection due to a similar federal law that, through a collaboration among state and local law enforcement with federal counterparts, could prevent an abuser from obtaining or possessing a firearm. 

SAPA, however, “has chilled that cooperation with federal law enforcement, putting domestic violence survivors at increased risk of becoming victims of armed abusers,” MOCADSV said. 

“Domestic violence is all too common across the country and in Missouri. But it is the presence of guns in the hands of abusers that frequently turns domestic violence lethal,” the MOCADSV said in the brief. “It is imperative that abusers’ access to firearms be limited to protect domestic violence survivors.” 

The MOCADSV is represented by Everytown Law, the litigation arm affiliated with Everytown for Gun Safety, the country’s largest gun violence prevention group backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 

Earlier this year, a Cole County judge denied a request to block SAPA from going into law. St. Louis and Jackson counties had sued, asking the court to find SAPA unconstitutional. 

SAPA has also garnered federal attention. 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 the DOJ alleged the measure violated the federal Supremacy Clause and decried the negative impact it could have on law enforcement. 

“Every time we think Missouri firearm laws cannot become weaker at protecting domestic violence victims, they do,” Jennifer Carter Dochler, the public policy director for the MOCADSV, said. “SAPA threatens to worsen Missouri’s deadly domestic violence crisis by making it more likely that abusers will obtain and possess firearms free of any law enforcement consequences.” 

But supporters of SAPA, including Parson and Schmitt, said the law is meant to defend Missourians “from federal government overreach by prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from being used by the federal government to infringe on Missourians’ right to keep and bear arms.” 

“We believe in the state of Missouri that an individual should lose their rights when they commit a violent felony — not when they commit a misdemeanor. We’ve never said that a misdemeanor is a reason an individual should lose their Second Amendment rights or any rights, for that matter,” GOP Rep. Jered Taylor, SAPA’s author, has said. “My argument is that … if we need to change Missouri law to make some crimes a felony, if it’s a domestic violence situation, then let’s make those a felony, and those individuals should lose their Second Amendment rights.” 

SAPA has even caused consternation in the U.S. Senate Republican primary race. Former Gov. Eric Greitens received backlash from pro-gun ownership groups when he said the bill was pushed by “career politicians and RINOs” that “actually defunded the police.” Greitens, one of several GOP contenders for the open Senate seat, has since said he supports the Second Amendment and SAPA.