Missouri Senate votes to block federal gun law enforcement

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri senators on Thursday passed a bill to block local police from enforcing federal gun laws, sending the bill to the House just hours before lawmakers’ Friday deadline.

The Republican-led Senate voted 22-10 in favor of the bill, which would penalize local police departments if their officers enforce federal gun laws.

Under the bill, Missouri agencies with police who knowingly enforce any federal laws could be sued and fined $50,000 per violating officer.

Most state and federal gun laws are the same anyway, and federal law enforcement could still enforce gun rules that are in federal law only.

Republican backers said they’re motivated by the possibility of new federal gun restrictions under Democratic President Joe Biden and the Democratic-led U.S. House.

“If the federal government attempts to infringe on our Second Amendment rights here in Missouri, we will stand up for our citizens,” Republican Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz told reporters Thursday, speaking from a podium adorned with guns.

Democrats said the measure unconstitutionally seeks to supersede federal laws and predicted it would be shot down by the courts.

Senate Democrats also tried and failed to amend the bill to fix a loophole in the state gun laws created by lawmakers in 2016.

Kansas City Democratic Sen. Lauren Arthur’s proposal would have barred people with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from owning guns.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers for years have said they plan to go back and fix the issue to prevent abusers from getting access to guns.

“This isn’t just a Democrat’s idea or attempt to take away someone’s gun rights,” Arthur said. “This is a legitimate attempt to remedy an error, to fix a problem and to help keep people safe.”

GOP lawmakers said adding that provision to the bill might have unconstitutionally broadened the legislation. Suburban St. Louis Republican Sen. Bob Onder said if the amendment was added, the entire bill “would be thrown out by our very radical, activist, anti-gun appellate court system.”

Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, the No. 2 senator, again pledged that Republicans would partner with Democrats to fix the issue later.

“There is a problem,” Rowden said. “There are some holes that we can work to fill together.”

Arthur and Rowden also said they received threats over perceptions that they were blocking the measure’s passage, although Rowden voted in favor of the measure. Both said they didn’t want to overblow the threats, but law enforcement on Thursday staked out Rowden’s home for added protection.

The House is expected to take up the bill for a final vote Friday.