On Friday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed House Bill 436, known as the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” a pro-gun measure that would have nullified all federal laws and statutes that infringe on a Missouri citizen’s Second Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Under the language of the bill, any federal agent that attempts to enforce a federal gun law or confiscate firearms manufactured, sold or kept within the state’s borders would face misdemeanor charges.
Key provisions of the “Second Amendment Preservation Act” read, in part:
3. (1) All federal acts, laws, orders, rules, and regulations, whether past, present, or future, which infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 23 of the Missouri Constitution shall be invalid in this state, shall not be recognized by this state, shall be specifically rejected by this state, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in this state.
6. Any official, agent, or employee of the United States government who enforces or attempts to enforce any of the infringements on the right to keep and bear arms included in subsection 3 of this section is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.
The bill also sought to protect the privacy of law-abiding gun owners by banning journalists from publishing the names of gun owners in newspapers, magazines or over the Internet.
Nixon, who is widely known to be a pro-gun politician, gave a rather vexing explanation as to why he vetoed the “Second Amendment Preservation Act.”
“This unnecessary and unconstitutional attempt to nullify federal laws would have violated Missourians’ First Amendment right to free speech — while doing nothing to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners,” Nixon said in a statement.
“In fact, under this bill, newspaper editors around the state that annually publish photos of proud young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer could be charged with a crime.”
Clearly, a gross misinterpretation of the bill. Any logical individual knows that the provision with respect to journalists was designed to prevent what happened in New York City this past December, when the Journal News, a local publication with strong pro-gun control bias, created an interactive map that included the names and addresses of concealed carry permit holders. To assume that the measure would be used to crackdown on hunting or pro-gun publications that have the consent of the individual being featured in the article is foolish.
In addition to the specious claim about violating free speech, Nixon argued that the bill violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution which, according to his statement, was “designed to provide a mechanism to enforce federal acts and to resolve discord between state and federal laws that touch upon the same subject, giving precedence to the laws of the nation over those of the respective states.”
This is a more tenable argument, but one that is certainly open for debate and something a court will eventually decide (Kansas passed its own version of the SPA, which will likely lead to a lawsuit). Given that, one wonders why Nixon would opt to take a side in the debate and veto a bill that was so overwhelmingly popular in the state legislature.
As mentioned, Nixon is widely know to be pro-gun. In fact, on the same day he vetoed the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” he signed into law House Bill 533, a bill that allows a state employee to keep a firearm in his or her vehicle while on property owned or leased by the state, allows a fire chief to carry a concealed firearm, and expresses the General Assembly’s support of responsible gun ownership.
In signing this bill, Nixon touted his support for gun ownership and gun rights.
“As a gun owner and hunter, I support the Second Amendment rights of Missourians and oppose efforts to undermine them,” Nixon said.
“That is why, as Governor, I have enacted legislation to expand gun rights, including bills to strengthen the Castle Doctrine and to allow more Missourians to carry concealed weapons. House Bill 533 is a sensible expansion of Missouri’s already strong protections for gun owners.”
So, how does one make sense of this situation? Well, some say it’s political theater, i.e., Nixon flexing his muscles. After all, he is a Democratic governor in a state with a GOP-controlled legislature.
“He’s a boxer that doesn’t want to be caught in the corner,” Rep. Chris Molendorp, a Lee’s Summit Republican, told the Kansas City Star. “He wants to get out in the center of the ring now. … He’s going to tell the legislature when he thinks we’ve gone too far.”
Time will tell if taking a stand against the “Second Amendment Preservation Act” was a wise decision or not for Gov. Nixon. The Legislature will have a chance to override his veto in the fall when it returns to session in September. Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority, which should be an easy feat considering the bill cleared both chambers with majorities greater than two-thirds.