A Missouri state legislature bill attempting to nullify some federal gun control policies moved a step closer to becoming law Wednesday, as the state House voted to override a gubernatorial veto of the measure.
The 109-49 House vote in the met the bare minimum needed for a veto override, but the legislation still must get a two-thirds majority in the state’s Senate for it to become law.
The legislation declares any federal policies that "infringe on the people's right to keep and bear arms" shall be invalid in Missouri. It allows state misdemeanor charges to be brought against federal agents who try to enforce those laws, or against anyone who publishes the identity of a gun owner.
The Missouri measure is an attempt to "push back the tyranny of an out-of-control and incompetent federal government," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Doug Funderburk, a Republican from suburban St. Louis.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon had vetoed the bill in July while warning that it infringed on First Amendment free-speech rights and violated the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives precedence to federal laws over conflicting state ones.
Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, also raised concerns about the ramifications of a potential veto override. He said a court likely would strike down the nullification provision, but could leave intact other sections of the bill that could potentially prevent local police from cooperating with federal authorities on crimes involving guns.
The Missouri legislation is one of the boldest examples yet of what has become a nationwide movement among states to nullify federal laws with which local officials disagree. A recent analysis by The Associated Press found that about four-fifths of the states now have enacted laws that directly reject or conflict with federal laws on marijuana use, gun control, health insurance requirements and identification standards for driver's licenses.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence said Wednesday that it will immediately file a federal lawsuit against the Missouri measure if the veto override succeeds.
"This outrageous law would allow criminals to buy machine guns and make federal law enforcement officers into criminals for trying to stop gun crimes," Jonathan Lowy, director of the Brady Center's legal action project, said in a written statement.
A couple hundred gun-rights advocates rallied Wednesday on the Missouri Capitol lawn in a last-moment lobbying push for the bill.
"We need to take control from the federal government and their overreach of taking away our rights," said Gene Dultz, 60, of St. Louis, who was wearing a National Rifle Association hat and shirt while standing in the crowd.
The NRA has maintained a conspicuous public silence about the bill, declining to answer repeated questions from the media about whether it supports or opposes the measure.
Funderburk said he is concerned about the bill's prospects in the state Senate. Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said he was switching from a "yes" to a "no" because of unease about the constitutionality of the legislation.
"Because of fear that was mongered in the last hour, there are some people who are getting serious concerns," Funderburk told rally participants while encouraging them to relentlessly lobby lawmakers in the final moments before a vote.
One of the specific federal laws that the Missouri nullification bill cites is the Gun Control Act of 1934, which imposed a tax on transferring machine guns or silencers. The bill also would invalidate any federal law requiring fees, tracking or registration of firearms or ammunition that "could have a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens."
If the veto override succeeds, the Missouri Press Association also has said it will file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the provisions barring the publication of the name, address or other identifying information of any person who owns a firearm.
Other parts of the bill would lower Missouri's concealed-gun permit age to 19 instead of 21 and allow specially trained teachers or administrators to serve as a "school protection officer" able to carry a concealed gun.
The Associated Press