On Tuesday, a U.S. federal judge ruled that a Missouri state law that made it more difficult for police to enforce federal gun laws is unconstitutional.
In Missouri, people can buy and own guns without a background check or license, they can conceal-carry them with no permit, guns don’t have to be securely stored away from young children, and domestic abusers can purchase and own firearms. There were 23.9 deaths from firearms per 100,000 Missouri residents in 2020, the most recent year where CDC data is available, making it the fourth-deadliest state in gun deaths in the nation.
Yet still, in 2021, almost every single Republican state House member voted for the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” or SAPA, which invalidated federal gun laws and penalized officials who tried to uphold them. The bill subjected any official who would seek to uphold federal gun laws to penalties of “$50,000 per employee hired by the law enforcement agency.”
In February 2022, however, the Justice Department challenged the statute in court, noting that the “Missouri law uniquely discriminates against federal agencies and employees; impairs law enforcement efforts in Missouri; and contravenes the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution,” which states that federal laws hold precedence over conflicting state laws.
The suit argued that the bill interrupted prior collaboration between state and local law enforcement agencies with federal officers to keep residents safe. It also argued that, in addition to misleading and confusing state and local officers, the Missouri law was “purporting to nullify, interfere with, and discriminate against federal law.”
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes of the Western District of Missouri sided with the Justice Department and declared that the bill violated the supremacy clause of the Constitution.
“SAPA’s practical effects are counterintuitive to its stated purpose,” Wimes wrote. “While purporting to protect citizens, SAPA exposes citizens to greater harm by interfering with the Federal Government’s ability to enforce lawfully enacted firearms regulations designed by Congress for the purpose of protecting citizens within the limits of the Constitution.”