June 24, 2021
Law raises concerns among police
Two local leaders on Monday filed a lawsuit to block a new law which makes Missouri a sanctuary state for gun violence by preventing local law enforcement from following federal gun laws.
“This harmful and unconstitutional law takes away tools our communities need to prevent gun violence.” — St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page joined together to file the suit in Cole County Circuit Court, asking for a judgement that declares the new law unconstitutional under both federal and state constitutions.
“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 wrote in a media release. “This harmful and unconstitutional law takes away tools our communities need to prevent gun violence. I’m proud to partner with St. Louis County in this effort to protect our region and stop this law.”
Page and Jones pointed out that Missouri has some of the weakest gun regulations in the country and one of the highest rates of gun violence deaths per capita. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that in 2019 there were 1,252 people who died from gunshot wounds in the state, making for a mortality rate of 20.6 deaths per 100,000 people.
“This new law is like the state holding out a sign that says ‘Come Commit Gun Violence Here,’” Page wrote in the media release. “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.”
They argued that House Bill 85 has already disrupted law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels.
The bill establishes the "Second Amendment Preservation Act," which creates additional protections to the right to bear arms, essentially declaring federal laws that restrict gun ownership as invalid within the state. It also states that any entity or person who knowingly acts under any federal or state law to deprive a Missouri resident of their right to bear arms will be held legally liable.
This bill has created concern among the state’s police.
Most notable, a week after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed the bill into law June 12 the O'Fallon, Missouri, police chief, Philip Dupuis, announced his resignation because he said the bill is poorly worded and he worries that it “removes sovereign immunity and appears to allow law enforcement agencies and individual police officers to be sued for even good-faith, justified seizures of firearms in emergency circumstances."
The lawsuit quoted Parson at the signing of the bill ceremony as saying this bill stops people like Vice President Kamala Harris from taking Missourians’ guns,
“The purpose of the bill is to stand up to the federal government,” Parson said.
In addition, the United States Department of Justice declared the new law unconstitutionally interferes with federal law enforcement and threatens the ability of local police departments to access federal grants.
The State of Missouri also withdrew its prosecutors from assisting in federal drug, carjacking and gun cases in St. Louis.
“[House Bill 85] is a radical, dangerous and obviously unconstitutional attempt to declare that Missouri will refuse to follow federal gun laws,” Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said June 11, according to the lawsuit. “When people are looking for real solutions on crime, policing and public safety, Gov. Parson and the Republican legislature have instead chosen to preserve Missouri's growing reputation for extremist and dangerous laws.”
The lawsuit seeks an injunction and for the law to be overturned on constitutional grounds. Attorneys will argue that the bill violates the U.S. Constitution Supremacy Clause, which provides that federal law preempts state law.
State Rep. Jered Taylor, a Republican representing the area just south of Springfield, is the bill’s primary sponsor. The legislation had almost 80 co-sponsors.
The House passed the bill May 14 — with 103 representatives voting in favor (all Republicans), 43 in opposition (all Democrats) and 16 absent votes (11 Republicans and five Democrats).