COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s GOP-led state House on Wednesday advanced a bill to ban local police officers from enforcing federal gun laws, including using federal laws to take away people’s guns.
Bill sponsor Republican Rep. Jered Taylor, of Republic, cited the possibility of new federal gun restrictions under Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration and the Democratic-led U.S. House as the reason why the bill is needed.
He said it’s state lawmakers’ job to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Missourians.
“We are here to defend those rights against an out-of-control federal government,” Taylor said. “And that’s exactly what this bill does.”
The legislation would apply to the enforcement of federal gun crimes that are not state gun crimes. Federal officers still would be able to enforce those laws, but Missouri law enforcement would be banned from helping.
The bill has gotten pushback from some law enforcement in the state, particularly over a now-stripped provision that would have disqualified law enforcement officers from working as Missouri cops if they served on federal taskforces related to firearm crimes. Police also would have been subject to lawsuits under the previous bill version.
House lawmakers removed those penalties Wednesday, but the measure still would subject police departments to lawsuits and $50,000 fines if they employ officers who enforce federal gun laws.
Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott in a letter to Missouri state and federal lawmakers last week called the legislation “well-intended but misguided.” He said it would hamstring law enforcement officers who often partner with federal agents over state gun crimes that face stiffer penalties under federal law.
Arnott cautioned that the measure has unintended consequences that would “severely hinder the prosecution of some of our most dangerous offenders.”
Democrats slammed the bill’s progress at a time when both St. Louis and Kansas City are struggling with a surge in violent crime.
“As violence at the highest it’s ever been, I implore you not to pass a bill that further emphasizes the leading tool of these crimes,” Democratic Kansas City Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove said.
The measure needs another vote of approval in the House before it can go to the Republican-led Senate for debate.
House members gave the bill initial approval in a voice vote Wednesday, but an earlier vote to amend the bill passed 107-43. That signals it likely has enough support to get final approval in the House.