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Missouri Gun Control Nullification Bill Passes

by Carl Wicklander, published
(Credit: The Atlantic)

(Credit: The Atlantic)

As gun control legislation stalls in Washington DC, Missouri is taking matters into its own hands.

Known as the "Second Amendment Preservation Act," House Bill 436 passed the Missouri House of Representatives 117-43. If the bill becomes state law, it will nullify new federal gun laws. It would prohibit enforcement of any gun laws or executive orders issued after January 1, 2013. It would also make it a felony for any federal agent to attempt to enforce those laws or executive orders in Missouri. This bill gives authority to:

"Regulate the manufacture, possession, exchange, and use of firearms within this state's borders, subject only to the limits imposed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Missouri Constitution."

Republican State Representative Casey Guernsey, the bill's co-sponsor, told the Huffington Post:

"The Second Amendment says we have the right to keep and bear arms. . . . Whenever the federal government or President Obama takes any measure on gun control, they are taking that right away."

According to historian Tom Woods, author of a 2010 book on nullification, the Missouri bill "quotes copiously from the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, drafted by Thomas Jefferson."

Part of the text of HB 436 reads, "Whenever the federal government assumes powers that the people did not grant it in the Constitution, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force."

Opponents of the bill say it will not pass the constitutional litmus test on account of the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution. State Representative Stacey Newman, a Democrat, castigated Republicans over the bill, saying:

"They want to make it easier to have a gun. It makes Missouri look so backwards by saying this is our answer. It says our guns mean more to us than saving lives."

The editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called it "all but an act of secession."

Guernsey insists that he does not wish to overturn previous federal gun laws, only ones yet to be enacted. In essence, the bill would preserve the status quo on guns in Missouri.

The term nullification has a powerful and controversial ring to it because it conjures up pre-Civil War America in the minds of many. However, several states have adopted measures rejecting federal laws pertaining to medical marijuana and the Affordable Care Act.

In 2012, Oregon and Colorado passed ballot initiatives legalizing small amounts of marijuana. Although still tightly regulated in those states, the initiatives essentially nullified previous federal law. President Obama said at the time that enforcing federal drug laws was not a priority. However, earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a warrant to Oregon officials to disclose the identities of patients in the state's medical marijuana facilities.

This is also not the first time Representative Guernsey has sought to implement nullification. Earlier this year, he introduced legislation to prohibit the use of drones in Missouri by the federal government.

A companion bill to Missouri gun control nullification has been introduced in the State Senate by Republican Brian Nieves. Republicans hold a majority in that chamber as well.

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