Missouri's staunchest Second Amendment defenders gathered around a gun-stacked podium on Thursday night to commend the state senate for passing a bill that seeks to nullify federal "infringements" against gun rights.
"To put it simply, if the federal government attempts to infringe on our Second Amendment rights in Missouri, we will stand up for our citizens," Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said during the late-night press conference that followed hours of debate on the controversial bill.
Apparently, to illustrate the victory, someone leaned several long guns against the podium's circular seal of the State of Missouri; completing the scene were two silver revolvers placed in mirror orientation between the rifles and shotguns — giving the whole arrangement the shrine-like composition and questionable gun safety of a Lauren Boebert Zoom background.
.@DaveSchatz26 @calebrowden @Mikelkehoe & @MissouriGOP leaders drew a clear line in the sand tonight — MO will support and defend your constitutional right to bear arms. We are proud to fight for the rule of law, and our brave law enforcement. #moleg pic.twitter.com/Rg4UOQDHof— Steele Shippy (@SteeleShippy) May 14, 2021
"If the federal government tries to take back, track or tax your guns away, Missouri, we will stand up for you," Schatz added.
There were a lot of "ifs" involved in the press conference and bill, which has one last hurdle to pass in the state House before it can reach Gov. Mike Parson's desk.
Joining Schatz and other Republican lawmakers at the Thursday press conference were three Missouri sheriffs, including Audrain County Sheriff Matt Oller.
Asked by a reporter whether the bill could worsen gun crime in St. Louis and Kansas City — areas already hard-hit with gun violence — Oller responded that the proposed law wouldn't affect either city "unless the federal government decides to come in and do wholesale confiscation."
"All this does is affirm to the federal government that we're not going to participate in wholesale confiscation," Oller continued. "There are people who need to have guns confiscated from them; they are criminals. But Missouri law enforcement is not going to take part in any wholesale confiscation."
Indeed, the contents of the Second Amendment Preservation Act are largely hypothetical: According to the bill approved by the Senate and now under deliberation in the House, Missouri law would not recognize federal laws that create a "chilling effect on the purchase or ownership" of guns, ammunition and accessories by "law-abiding citizens."
Among the federal laws targeted by the bill are "Any tax, levy, fee, or stamp imposed on firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition not common to all other goods and services," "Any registration or tracking of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition," and "Any registration or tracking of the owners of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition."
concerns by law enforcement as well as legal experts who warn that trying to "nullify" federal laws is, at best, a symbolic gesture.
In February, former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Michael Wolff told St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he believed the proposed law, if passed, would be "clearly unconstitutional."
But the bill is also notable for what it does not contain. During more than six hours of debate in the Senate on Thursday, Democratic lawmakers attempted to add an amendment to close the "domestic violence loophole" by making it illegal for someone to buy or possess a gun if they are convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence — but the amendment was defeated.
Speaking in opposition to the amendment on Thursday, senator Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, argued that while he agreed with the intent "to want to protect people," he suggested that a person convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime wasn't a danger and could have just had "a really bad night" — and therefore shouldn't be kept from owning weapons.
"I see how this, in a real-world application, when tempers are flared, how somebody can be charged with these sorts of things," Brattin said in remarks reported by the Columbia Missourian. He claimed the amendment "could be really misapplied." (According to Missouri criminal statutes, a misdemeanor for domestic assault encompasses several crimes, including recklessly causing physical injury, injuring a victim through "criminal negligence... by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument," and "recklessly engaging in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or physical injury.")
Just after 5 p.m. Friday, the House passed the bill by a vote of 111-42.
From there, the legislation now goes to the governor's desk. In 2013, a similar version of a Second Amendment Preservation Act made it to the desk of then-Democratic Governor Jay Nixon — and he vetoed it.
Editor's note: The story was updated after publication to reflect Friday's House vote on the bill.
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at [email protected]