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Missouri attorney general vows to appeal ruling against state gun law

An Obama-appointed federal judge struck down the entirety of a law carrying steep fines for local police departments whose officers enforce federal firearm restrictions.

(CN) — Missouri’s Republican attorney general has vowed to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that a recently passed gun rights law known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act is unconstitutional.

“As attorney general, I will protect the Constitution, which includes defending Missourians’ fundamental right to bear arms,” Attorney General Andrew Bailey said in a statement. “We are prepared to defend this statute to the highest court, and we anticipate a better result at the Eighth Circuit.”

U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes on Tuesday found the law violated the supremacy of U.S. federal law over state law and was “unconstitutional in its entirety.”

The law, passed in 2021, would subject law enforcement agencies with officers who knowingly enforce any federal firearms laws to a fine of about $50,000 per violating officer. It is part of an effort by state lawmakers to loosen gun laws, which include abandoning training requirements and background checks.

The state's Republican-dominated Legislature passed the law in advance of anticipated gun restriction laws from the Biden administration. Missouri Democrats claim the law is unconstitutional and believe it would not pass a challenge in the courts.

Wimes, a Barack Obama appointee, agreed with the Democrats.

“At best, this statute causes confusion among state law enforcement officials who are deputized for federal task force operations, and at worst, is unconstitutional on its face,” Wimes wrote in his 24-page opinion in a case filed last year by the U.S. Department of Justice.

He added, “While Missouri cannot be compelled to assist in the enforcement of federal regulations within the state, it may not regulate federal law enforcement or otherwise interfere with its operations.”

Bailey vowed to fight for gun rights, stating the issue is about “federalism and individual liberty” in a series of tweets following the ruling.

“The Second Amendment is what makes the rest of the amendments possible,” Bailey tweeted. “If the state legislature wants to expand upon the foundational rights codified in the Second Amendment, they have the authority to do that.”

Leaders from Missouri’s two main metropolitan areas – St. Louis and Kansas City – were encouraged by the ruling. St. Louis City Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. issued a joint statement after Wimes’ decision.

“Year after year, Jefferson City politicians have continued to pass dangerous bills that make it more difficult to prevent gun violence in our communities,” they said. “HB 85 makes it harder for police to do their jobs and strips away critical tools we need to protect our neighborhoods.”

St. Louis in particular has seen a spike in gun violence, including a school shooting at Central VPA High School in October and the execution-style shooting of a homeless man in broad daylight last month.

City leaders claim the violence is directly tied to the lax gun laws passed by a largely rural conservative majority in the state capital of Jefferson City. They say the Central VPA shooting could have been prevented with a red-flag law.

Republican lawmakers not only have balked at such measures, they seem to have doubled-down in the opposite direction, including striking down a provision last month that would restrict unsupervised minors from carrying firearms in public.

Categories:Civil Rights, Government, Law, Politics, Regional

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