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Nearly 60 police chiefs back suit against Missouri gun law

January 12, 2022 GMT

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Nearly 60 Missouri police chiefs are supporting a lawsuit that raises concerns about a new state law forbidding local law enforcement from enforcing federal gun laws.

The group of chiefs belonging to either the St. Louis Area Police Chiefs Association or the Missouri Police Chiefs Association said some of the wording in the law “has inadvertently caused confusion and raised a number of questions that hinder law enforcement’s ability to defend and protect Missouri citizens,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Both police associations are seeking a judge’s permission to file a friend of the court brief supporting a lawsuit that the city of Arnold filed last week in Jefferson County Circuit Court. The suit alleges that the new law is vague and confusing, hampers criminal investigations and is contrary to state and federal law. It seeks a judge’s order that would block enforcement of some of the law’s provisions.

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The two associations said in a statement that the intent was not to overturn the law but to “ensure that law enforcement return to operating and functioning as it always has.”

The move follows multiple failed attempts by police, prosecutors and federal law enforcement officials to get the Missouri Legislature to make changes to the law.

One of the co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, said Tuesday that he had not yet seen the lawsuit and did not know exactly what the police chiefs were seeking.

Asked about the potential for changes in the Legislature, Taylor said, “I don’t think there need to be any changes,” adding that he believes the bill was written in a way that both protects the Second Amendment and allows law enforcement to do their job.

Police have been raising concerns since the law was proposed.

Bob Sweeney, one of the lawyers who filed the suit, said he believes that legislators are afraid to fix the law, which he contends contradicts other statutes, for fear of being seen as anti-gun.

“I’m not challenging the constitutionality or viability of the legislation. I’m asking the court to explain what it means and which statutes we should follow,” he said.

Sweeney also said that one self-insurance pool said they would not cover lawsuits filed against police under the law, which allows private citizens to sue over alleged violations of their Second Amendment rights, presenting a “grave risk to local governments.”

In August, a judge in Cole County rejected a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the law filed by St. Louis city and county and Kansas City officials. The case has been appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.