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St. Louis city, county sue to block SAPA

  

ST. LOUIS — Both the city of St. Louis and the county filed a lawsuit Monday to block HB 85, the Second Amendment Preservation Act commonly called SAPA. The lawsuit asked the court to declare the new law unconstitutional on both state and federal levels. 

HB 85, which Gov. Mike Parson signed into law earlier this month, 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 (DOJ) sent an inquiry into SAPA, seeking clarification on several points while also raising multiple concerns. Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt defended the law in their response to the DOJ: “We will not stand by while the federal government tries to tell Missourians how to live our lives.” 

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page filed a lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court Monday asking the court to “recognize that HB 85 infringes upon the constitutional rights guaranteed by both the Missouri and United States’ constitutions and curtail law enforcement officers’ ability to investigate, apprehend, and prosecute criminals.” 

“2020 was the deadliest year of gun violence in our state’s history, and now the Missouri Legislature is throwing up barriers to stop police from doing their most important job — preventing and solving violent crime,” Jones said. “This harmful and unconstitutional law takes away tools our communities need to prevent gun violence.”

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page argued the law would “chill” officers from adequately protecting their communities as well as “deter” those who might want to become an officer. (PROVIDED)

“This new law is like the state holding out a sign that says ‘Come Commit Gun Violence Here,’” said Page. “We can’t expect people to stay in St. Louis or to move their businesses here if we don’t do everything we can to reduce gun violence in the region, but this new law sends the opposite message to our residents and business community.” 

The pair argued the law would “chill” officers from adequately protecting their communities as well as “deter” those who might want to become an officer. They pointed to the recent resignation of O’Fallon Police Chief Philip Dupuis who cited the “unintended consequences” of SAPA as his decision to leave his post. 

“In misguided zeal to prevent imaginary threats to the right to keep and bear arms, the political branches in our state government blatantly violated the federal and state constitutions by attempting to nullify federal gun laws,” the lawsuit said. “The consequences of HB 85 are tangible and real: they will make it easier for criminals to use guns in committing violent acts, they will give gun violence a safe haven in Missouri, and local governments like the plaintiffs may be disqualified from receiving federal grants and technical assistance through the United States Department of Justice.” 

Rep. Jered Taylor, HB 85’s sponsor, said during an interview last week that he believed the law would hold up in court. 

“It appears to be just another example of St. Louis anting to restrict Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” Taylor told The Missouri Times Monday in response to the lawsuit. “Rather than empowering law-abiding citizens to defend themselves, they want to make more victims of criminals who don’t follow the law. Instead of focusing on restricting Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens, they should focus on prosecuting cases against violent criminals.”

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