Missouri House OKs Ozarks lawmaker's plan to push back on federal gun laws
JEFFERSON CITY — Citing fears of impending tyranny, the Missouri House gave initial approval to a plan to limit the reach of federal gun laws here Wednesday.
The bill from Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Christian County, would bar state and local law enforcement from enforcing any federal statutes that ban or discourage “law-abiding citizens” from having guns, accessories or ammunition.
Taylor and other Republicans said they’re expecting a lot of that stuff with Democrats now in control of Congress and the White House.
Indeed, President Joe Biden campaigned on banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines as part of his "Plan to End Gun Violence." Congressional Democrats have proposed various limitations and regulations Republicans abhor.
“I don’t know about you,” Taylor said, “but I think Missourians know what’s best for Missouri, not some congressman or congresswoman from California or Illinois or even from Texas.”
Taylor’s bill would not stop federal officials from enforcing new federal restrictions anyway, but he said it would ensure they do so on their own.
Any state or local agency employing someone who helps enforce an objectionable law could be sued and face minimum fines of $50,000 per violation.
The idea, Taylor said, is to “make them think twice before they go and seize an AR-15.”
A previous version of the bill had called for banning offending officers from Missouri law enforcement entirely, but Taylor said he thought hitting agencies’ pocketbooks would be more effective.
He said the change would also address criticism from the state’s sheriffs, including Greene County’s Jim Arnott, who said the original bill would penalize deputies for working with federal officials to fight violent crime.
“This addresses their concerns,” Taylor said.
It wasn’t clear that was true Wednesday.
“I’m not sure that necessarily remedies our concern,” Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish, who leads sheriffs’ association lobbying efforts, said in a brief interview.
The change didn’t win over any Democrats, either.
Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said Taylor’s proposal of a financial penalty amounted to an attempt to “defund the police.”
“It seems like people want to support law enforcement until it comes to something that law enforcement says they need to fight violent crime,” Merideth said. “Then gun worship is more important.”
Taylor shrugged off the concerns as misinformed.
He said officers and deputies would still be able to work with their federal counterparts on gun crimes that are laid out in Missouri statutes, which largely mirror federal code.
The only difference, he said, was that they would have to have suspects charged in state court.
“After we saw our deadliest year ever for gun violence and we saw Missouri’s gun homicide rate fifth-highest in the country … I’m concerned about legislation that doesn’t do any more to affect gun violence,” she said.
Taylor said the legislature could handle that with a separate bill ramping up sentences for violent criminals, though, and other Republicans said the bill in question Wednesday was about something more fundamental.
Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, said that for too long, state legislatures have let the federal government run roughshod over them.
He pointed to the 17th Amendment in 1913, which stripped the legislature of its ability to elect U.S. senators, and the more recent phenomenon of the federal government paying for more of Missouri's annual budget than the state.
"I say that the ancient right of self-defense, which is what we're talking about with the Second Amendment, is the best place to start pushing back against this overwhelming power," Trent said.
Most of the GOP-dominated chamber agreed and approved the bill on a 107-43 vote.
Among lawmakers whose districts cover Greene County, Republicans Trent, Bishop Davidson, Bill Owen, Alex Riley and Craig Fishel voted in favor of the bill; Democrats Crystal Quade and Betsy Fogle voted against the bill.
Rep. John Black, R-Marshfield, was absent.
Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, is pushing a similar bill in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Similar legislation made it through both houses in 2013 but was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
Republicans tried to override Nixon but came up one vote short in the upper chamber.
Proponents have said they're more optimistic this year with Republican Mike Parson in the governor's office, noting that Parson was one of the senators who voted to override Nixon in 2013.
The legislation is House Bill 85.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at email@example.com.