© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Missouri’s Top Officials Vow To Battle Justice Department Over Enforcement Of Federal Gun Laws

Gov. Mike Parson signs HB85 inside Frontier Justice on Saturday. He and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt have responded to a Department of Justice request for a clarification of the law.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Gov. Mike Parson signs HB85 inside Frontier Justice in Lee's Summit on Saturday. He and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt have responded to a Department of Justice request for a clarification of the law.

Gov. Mike Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt responded Thursday to a Department of Justice letter requesting clarification of a bill that would ban local police officers from enforcing federal gun laws.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Gov. Mike Parson say they will continue to defend a law barring local and state police from enforcing federal gun restrictions.

Parson and Schmitt signed a joint response to a Department of Justice request for clarification of Missouri’s “Second Amendment Preservation Act.”

The bill, which Parson signed into law Saturday inside Frontier Justice gun store in Lee's Summit, bans local and state police from enforcing federal gun laws and can subject any officer to a $50,000 fine for doing so.

The DOJ responded Wednesday with a letter asking the Governor and Schmitt to clarify the law.

The letter says the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause outweighs the Missouri law and could cause conflict between agencies.

“HB 85 threatens to immediately disrupt the working relationship between federal and state law enforcement officers, many of whom work shoulder-to-shoulder on various joint task forces, for which Missouri receives ample federal grants and other technical assistance,” wrote Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton.

Schmitt and Parson countered that the DOJ letter contains falsehoods and misunderstanding of the bill.

“Missouri is not attempting to nullify federal law,” the letter from Schmitt and Parson states. “Instead, Missouri is defending its people from federal government overreach by prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from being used by the federal government to infringe Missourians' right to keep and bear arms.”

Missouri joins several other Republican-led states relaxing gun laws.

Montana, in April, passed a law -- similar to Missouri’s -- that prohibits state and local officials from enforcing federal bans on firearms, ammunition and magazines.

Starting in September in Texas, residents can carry handguns without a license or training.

“Under our federal system, a state cannot nullify federal law,” Boynton said. “Instead, where federal law conflicts with state law, state law is preempted.”

Schmitt argued in his response that Missouri has the right to refuse to enforce unconstitutional infringements by the federal government.

The sponsor of the bill, Jered Taylor of Republic, Missouri, said he was not surprised the bill was challenged.

“It’s something we expected,” he said. “I’m excited. I’m thrilled both offices are standing behind the bill,” he said.

Taylor said he was confident the bill could stand up to any legal challenges.

Missouri Representative Emanuel Cleaver said in a statement, “Considering Missouri remains in the top ten states in terms of highest firearm mortality rates, we should be passing legislation that proactively improves gun safety measures, not voiding federal laws that are intended to increase public safety in an effort to score political points.”

“2020 was Missouri’s deadliest year ever in terms of gun violence—and this tragic epidemic continues to traumatize far too many families in our state to this day,” Cleaver said.

The Kansas City Police Department said in a statement that they will comply with whatever changes occur and enforce the law accordingly.

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.