Missouri bill curtailing First Amendment rights may pass

The Missouri Legislature may override a veto next week and enact the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,”  a bill that virtually reads the First Amendment out of the Constitution. The law makes it a crime to publish a story identifying a person as a gun-owner.


The First Amendment isn’t the only part of the Constitution that the bill would ignore.  In a throwback to the doctrine of “Nullification” that paved the way for the Civil War, HB 436 would nullify federal gun laws going back to 1934. (see https://www.stlbeacon.org/#!/content/31740/nixon_veto_guns_070513).

Gov. Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster have pointed out to the Legislature that it is ignoring the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which says that federal law is the supreme law of the land.  The Legislature also is ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision of Cooper v. Aaron  in 1958.  That decision emphatically told Arkansas that it could not nullify school desegregation in Little Rock, but instead was required to obey the Supreme Court’s desegregation order.

The Missouri bill goes so far as to make it a crime for Missouri law enforcement officials to enforce federal gun laws, meaning that local police would have to drop out of federal drug, gun and terrorism task forces. It even creates a new legal cause of action allowing criminals to sue state law enforcement officials who enforce federal law.
If, for example, a St. Louis police officer arrests a drug dealer in possession of a fully automatic rifle that violates the 1934 federal gun law, the drug dealer can sue the officer if the officer refers the case to a federal prosecutor.
These provisions have aroused the opposition of the Fraternal Order of Police. Nevertheless the Republican-controlled Legislature may have the votes to override Nixon’s veto of the bill when it meets in a veto session beginning Sept. 11.
Jean Maneke, a lawyer at the Missouri Press Association, explains in a column the extraordinary impact of the portion of the bill making it a crime to “publish the name, address, or other identifying information of any individual who owns a firearm….”  (see http://www.mopress.com/association.php?blog_id=653).
It would a crime for a news organization to publish a story stating that the governor owned a gun.  It would be a crime to run a column by a state legislator proudly stating he owns a gun.  It would be crime to run a photo identifying a group of young hunters at their first deer hunt. Maneke says she believes the law is unconstitutional, but she tells editors and publishers “you can’t disregard it.  If the veto is overridden, it will be state law…Can you withstand a prosecution?” If the Legislature overrides Nixon’s veto, civil liberties lawyers and groups are expected to quickly challenge the law in court.
But Attorney General Koster says some of the most damaging provisions – such as the one allowing criminals to sue police officers who enforce federal law – could withstand court challenge and cripple Missouri law enforcement.

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