Hartmann: The Breakaway Republic of Missouri

Gov. Mike Parson celebrates the signing of Missouri's Second Amendment Preservation Act" at a gun range.
Gov. Mike Parson celebrates the signing of Missouri's Second Amendment Preservation Act" at a gun range. MISSOURI GOVERNOR'S OFFICE/FLICKR
Gov. Mike Parson visited a shooting range called Frontier Justice in a town called Lee’s Summit to sign a law called the Second Amendment Preservation Act on Saturday.

Well, of course he did.

What a fitting spot to send a message to the neighboring United States that it need not try treading on sovereign Missouri with some radical-socialist plot to take its guns. The new state law says federal gun laws don’t apply here anymore, and there will be a dear price to pay for any local law enforcement officials who don’t abide by that.

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The choice of location could not have been more apropos. It was a shot across the bow to the Yankee administration of President Joe Biden. Or as Parson’s patriots like to call him: Alleged President Joe Biden.

What part of “frontier justice” do you not understand? Does the name Lee not ring a bell?

This is about as close to an official Civil War reenactment that the lunatic edition of the Republican Party can get away with in Missouri. Don’t bother pointing out that Missouri was technically a neutral state in that war: Folks here don’t have time for critical race theory.

What they do have time for is a culture war. The message is very clear to the Biden administration, along with progressives, liberals, moderates and rational conservatives everywhere: We’d sooner secede from the union than tolerate such intrusions and indignities as background checks for gun purchases.

The Republicans want this civil war so badly that they are raging at far-flung scenarios about the seizure of all guns from law-abiding gun owners (especially white ones). It’s all about nonexistent straw men and the utterly bogus supposition that the government wants to come for Americans’ guns.

No matter that this is pure nonsense. So is the new law.

The Second Amendment Preservation Act purports to bar law enforcement officials from enforcing federal gun laws that regulate registration and tracking of firearms. God forbid. It’s filled with horrendous parts “nullifying” federal gun laws, such as this beauty noted last week by the Kansas City Star:

“In particular, gun control advocates have focused on what they call the ‘domestic violence loophole’ that the legislation would solidify. Federal law prohibits gun possession for those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors, but when Missouri passed a permitless concealed carry law in 2016, sheriffs were no longer conducting background checks.

“Under the Second Amendment Preservation Act, that federal limitation is one of many gun laws that would be declared ‘invalid’ in the state. Missouri law only prohibits felons and fugitives from having guns.”

But throwing down for the God-given rights of misdemeanor domestic violence abusers is just one of many awful provisions advanced here. For example, local police departments are barred from hiring federal agents who enforced federal gun laws now “invalidated” by Missouri politicians. Really?

And, of course, there’s the lovely new passage inviting individuals to sue local police departments for $50,000 if they believe their Second Amendment rights were violated by one of the federal gun laws “nullified” in the new law. Yes, you read that correctly.

How spectacularly hypocritical is that one for the Republicans? It’s their version of “defund the police” and “file frivolous lawsuits” and “coddle criminals” all rolled into one.

This is rare red-meat politics in all its irrational glory. And if you don’t believe me, consider this dumbfounding statement from Parson spokesperson Kelli Jones:

“The Governor is aware of the legal implications of this bill, but also that, now more than ever, we must define a limited role for federal government in order to protect citizen’s rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. This is about empowering people to protect themselves and acknowledging the federalist constitutional structure of our government.”

I’m sorry, but I believe you lost me at the part about the governor being “aware of the legal implications of this bill.” I believe that is politician-speak, circa 2021, for the following:

“We are aware that our attempt to subvert the plain language of the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause is, well, patently unconstitutional. But we want it to be known that we don’t like that clause.”

In fairness to Parson, this is not really about him, or even about the state’s Republican politicians. Missouri is after all the thirteenth state to draw this meaningless line in the sand. If anything, one wonders what took it so long.

But Missouri’s red team does deserve a little credit for the rhetoric and the choreography it has brought to this troubling undertaking. Special kudos to state Senator Eric Burlison who hails from, of all places, Battlefield.

“This is an issue that could not wait any longer. I am increasingly concerned about the president and his administration attempting to restrict our right to keep and bear arms,” Burlison said. “Ultimately, I believe the purpose of the Second Amendment is to provide the citizens of our country with the ability to defend ourselves, and, if it comes to it, to push back against a tyrannical government.”

There’s that theme again: We’ve got to stand up to the tyranny of the Union. Hail the Confederacy! Oops.

It’s just perfect that Parson chose a town named for Robert E. Lee. While I’m not all that big on canceling and renaming stuff, how about going with a place named for this man to announce a new law that is so richly secessionist in its DNA.

In case you’re wondering, this is how the city of Lee’s Summit carefully addresses the origin of its name on its website:

“Although the ‘Summit’ portion of the name was obviously based on the fact the town's elevation is the highest point on the railroad between Kansas City and St. Louis, there are numerous opinions and theories on the origin of ‘Lee’. According to one theory, the town was named after Civil War General Robert E. Lee, since incorporation took place shortly after the war and the majority of citizens migrated from the Southern states. However, another version suggests the town was named after a prominent early settler, Dr. Pleasant Lea.”

I’ll go with the general. And I’ll go with the choice of Frontier Justice as a backdrop for the same reason U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler used it last week to announce she would seek to out-wingnut a growing line of Last Guy cultists including disgraced ex-Governor Eric Greitens, Attorney General Eric “Amicus” Schmitt and gun-waving Mark McCloskey in a run for the U.S. Senate.

This is not your father’s Republican Party. It’s a bug-eyed collection of imbeciles indulging their inner rebel-gunslinger fantasies.

That's why — for a political party reduced to standing for almost nothing — “frontier justice” has such a great ring to it.

Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).

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