Missouri's Republican-controlled legislature is expected to pass a measure in September to nullify all federal gun laws in the state and enable residents to sue agents who arrest them under federal statutes.
"It's probably one of the best states' rights issues that the country's got going right now," Missouri Republican Party Director of Communications Matt Wills told The New York Times
The move is part of a nationwide growing effort called "nullification
," in which states attempt to defy federal power. The trend has been used to back numerous issues, including by liberals for medical marijuana and Obamacare by conservatives.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed the measure last month, saying it was unconstitutional. But lawmakers convening on Sept. 11 — including nearly every Republican and a handful of Democrats — are expected to vote for the override.
Nixon said he vetoed the measure because the federal government's supremacy over states "is as logically sound as it is legally well-established." In addition, he pointed out that another provision of the bill that prohibits publishing names of gun owners violates the First Amendment and could even make a crime out of newspapers publishing "photos of proud young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer."
All but one of the House's 109 Republicans backed the original measure, as did all 24 Republicans in the Senate. To override the veto, backers will need 23 votes in the Senate and 109 in the House, meaning at least one Democrat will have to back the measure unless the remaining Republican lawmaker has a change of heart.
Rep. Jay Barnes, the lone Republican opposing the House bill, likely will not vote for the override, as he maintains the weapons bill is unconstitutional.
"Our Constitution is not some cheap Chinese buffet where we get to pick the parts we like and ignore the rest," he said. "Two centuries of constitutional jurisprudence shows that this bill is plainly unconstitutional, and I’m not going to violate my oath of office."
State Rep. T. J. McKenna, a Democrat who won his Jefferson City-based district by just 84 votes, backed the bill but said he has heard several protests from fellow Democrats.
"I can't be Mr. Liberal, St. Louis wannabe. What am I supposed to do?" he asked. "Just go against all my constituents."
He said he does not know how he'll vote for the veto override.
Republican Rep. Doug Funderburk, who authored the bill, said he expects to have more than enough votes for a veto override.
Some other states have already passed gun laws challenging federal power, including in Montana, where a Firearms Freedom Act exempts guns made in that state from federal rule. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently struck down Montana’s law.
Kansas lawmakers also passed a gun law this year that's been compared to Missouri's, but Secretary of State Kris Kobach said that law was drafted "very carefully to ensure that there would be no situation where a state official would be trying to arrest a federal official.”
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