The controversial Second Amendment Protection Act has cleared the first legislative hurdle to becoming Missouri law.
Sponsored by Republican State Senator Brian Nieves, the bill, SB 613, would nullify federal gun laws and treat federal agents enforcing those laws as criminals. Yesterday, the Missouri Senate approved the bill, 23-10.
SB 613 is moving to the House, where last year a similar bill, HB 436, was resoundingly approved with a vote of 109-49.
In 2013, pro-gun legislation produced charged debate over the legal merits of nullifying federal law. Opponents of the tactic, like Democrat Stacy Newman, argued that the tactic conflicts with numerous and established legal precedents.
This year, however, the Senate vote was nearly derailed by the NRA. The powerful lobbying group declared opposition last week to a Democrat-sponsored regulatory amendment. Republican Senators dutifully voted to remove it from the overall bill on Monday.
Of course, Nieves' bill didn't make it out of the Senate completely unchanged; A handful of other amendments were quietly stitched into the final revision before yesterday's vote.
Interestingly, one of those amendments actually closes a loophole that might have helped block federal gun laws in Missouri if parts of SB 613 were to be struck down in court as unconstitutional.
Sponsored by Democratic Senator Scott Sifton, the amendment makes the core provisions of SB 613 "nonseverable" -- meaning that if a court finds a portion of the bill invalid, then all the other major provisions of the bill are invalid as well.
Normally, the Missouri Revised Statutes would treat individual provisions within a bill like SB 613 as severable, allowing a court to simply remove bad provisions and leave the legal ones intact.
Earlier this week, Daily RFT interviewed states' rights advocate Mike Muharrey, national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center. He suggested that the severable nature of legislation can work as a loophole if big parts of a bill are defeated in court.
Muharrey theorized that even if the criminal enforcement against federal gun laws failed to clear a judge, the most "significant aspect" of SB 613 could sneak by, namely the provision prohibiting Missouri resources from being used to enforce federal laws.
If Sifton's amendment can survive the Missouri House of Representatives, and if the larger bill somehow makes it past Govenor Jay Nixon's veto, the 2014 Second Amendment Preservation Act will face a judge's scrutiny as a take-it-or-leave-it package.
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