Bill to Prohibit Federal Laws in Missouri Awaits Signature

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COLUMBIA - A bill sitting on Gov. Jay Nixon's desk would prevent the enforcement of certain federal gun laws in Missouri.

House Bill 436 states any federal acts, "whether past, present, or future, which infringe on the people's right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution" will not be recognized by the state of Missouri. Included in the bill's unrecognized laws are the federal Gun Control Acts of 1934 and 1968.

The bill would not only nullify these laws and prohibit their enforcement by state officials, but it would label any enforcement by state or federal officials a Class A Misdemeanor.

Osage County Sheriff Michael Dixon, a Republican, supports the measure. He said he serves the constitution and the laws of Missouri above all else.

"I carry a pocket copy of the constitution at all times," Dixon said. "It is my duty to protect the constitution, and that constitution guarantees the right to bear arms."

Dixon also said the bill is not aiming to enable purchase of guns by criminals, but to protect law-abiding citizens. But communications law Professor Sandra Davidson said the bill would create a dangerous environment in Missouri.

"I don't want to be portrayed as someone who wants to take all guns away," Davidson said. "I was raised with guns, and I know many people use them for hunting, but if you say you need a Tommy Gun to go hunting, my question is what are you trying to hunt?"

The federal Gun Control Act of 1934, one of the bill's targeted laws, does currently require machine guns, sawed off rifles and sawed off shotguns to be taxed and registered with the U.S. Department of Treasury. If HB 436 passed, these requirements would no longer apply in Missouri.

Davidson and Dixon agreed on one thing. They said if this bill passes the legislature, there would certainly need to be details hammered out in court. Federal law does reign supreme on matters of interstate commerce, and this bill would be in direct violation of multiple federal laws. However, as Dixon pointed out, there are some state laws that enable the sale of marijuana in direct violation of federal law. He said if these laws go unchecked, it is possible this one won't either. Davidson said she hopes the federal government would not treat the gun laws and marijuana laws equally.

"Marijuana is not going to kill someone like a machine gun will," Davidson said. "I would hope the federal government would not treat this law like marijuana laws."

The bill would also lower the concealed-carry age to 19.

All of these arguments could go away if Nixon vetoes the bill, but due to Republican supermajorities in the Missouri house and senate, it is possible such a veto could be overridden. Then it would be up to the court system to decide which argument is correct.