Missouri Law would Allow Arrest of Federal Agents Enforcing National Gun Laws
Missouri could soon become the last state that any federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) would want to work in. That’s because a bill adopted by the state legislature would, among other things, make it a crime for federal law enforcement officers to do their jobs within Missouri’s boundaries if it involves guns.
The legislation, which was vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon (D), but could still become law if lawmakers override the veto, seeks to nullify all federal gun laws in the state. It also states that federal agents who try to enforce said laws would be committing a felony.
Part of what’s become known as the “nullification movement,” the bill represents the most far-reaching attempt yet by conservatives to assert states’ rights over the federal government.
Nixon, who has signed other pro-gun measures, said in his veto statement that the federal government’s supremacy over the states’ “is as logically sound as it is legally well established.”
The governor also said he had problems with specific provisions in the bill, such as the part making it illegal to publish the name of any gun owner. Not only does this prohibition violate the First Amendment, Nixon said, but also it could curtail local newspapers’ tradition of publishing “photos of proud young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer.”
Another official concerned with the legislation is Richard G. Callahan, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. He says the law would make it impossible for joint law enforcement operations involving local, state and federal agents to work together to seize weapons from criminals.
All but one Republican in the Missouri House of Representatives voted for the bill. The lone GOP dissenter, Representative Jay Barnes, told The New York Times: “Our Constitution is not some cheap Chinese buffet where we get to pick the parts we like and ignore the rest.” He added, “Two centuries of constitutional jurisprudence shows that this bill is plainly unconstitutional, and I’m not going to violate my oath of office.”
To Learn More:
Gun Bill in Missouri Would Test Limits in Nullifying U.S. Law (by John Schwartz, New York Times)
The Nullification Movement: How States Aim to Ignore Federal Gun Laws (by Jon Terbush, The Week)
Republican-Led State Governments Revive Pre-Civil War Nullification (by Aaron Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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