On Wednesday, by the very narrowest of margins — one vote — the Missouri Legislature failed to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a controversial bill, House Bill 436, that would have nullified federal gun laws that infringe upon one’s Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
The Senate voted 22-12 in favor of the override. However, 23 was the magic number, the two-thirds majority required. Earlier in the day, the House approved the override by a vote of 109-49.
This ultimate defeat of HB 436 known as the “Second Amendment Preservation Act” was a big shock to gun rights advocates because the GOP-controlled legislature initially passed the bill with a bipartisan vote of 116-38 in the House and 26-6 in the Senate.
However, the second time around Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) and House Majority Leader Ron Richards (R-Jefferson City) had a change of heart and split from the rest of the GOP, voting to sustain the Democratic governor’s veto.
Following the vote, both men expressed a deep and profound respect for the Second Amendment but said HB 436 has the potential to undermine one’s First Amendment rights.
“I have reached a point where, in my view, political prudence and good public policy have parted ways, and I have been forced to pick which path I will follow,” Dempsey said.
“My love of the Second Amendment didn’t trump my love of the First Amendment,” he told Reuters.
The issue HB 436 raises with respect to the First Amendment concerns a provision of the bill that seeks 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.
When he vetoed the bill in July, Nixon cited similar concerns, arguing that the bill would infringe upon the First Amendment rights of journalists.
“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.”
Additionally, opponents of HB 436 argued that the bill would have made it difficult for state law enforcement agencies to work together with federal agents when prosecuting gun-related cases.
“The reality is, this bill says that every federal law, whether reasonable or not, cannot be enforced in Missouri,” Democratic Rep. Mike Colona said during debate on the state House floor.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson echoed those remarks to CNN.
“(We are) basically saying to criminals, ‘OK criminals, it’s OK to come to Missouri. We won’t prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,’ ” he said.
Yet proponents of the bill said these fears were way overblown and were tantamount to last minute scare tactics.
Sen. Brian Nieves (R-Washington) accused Koster of lying about the legislation in a smear campaign that he said “literally scares the bejesus out of our great law enforcement community.”
“This fight ain’t over, it ain’t over, it ain’t over,” Nieves added. “We’ll be back to visit it again” in the 2014 session.
In reading the bill, it’s rather evident that it would not nullify all federal gun laws, only those that inhibit law-abiding individuals from exercising their right to keep and bear arms. Federal laws dealing with criminals and gun crimes would not be considered null and void.
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 would have also allowed student resource officers (SROs) to carry concealed firearms on campus and lowered the legal age to carry a concealed firearm to 19 from 21.
So, at the end of the day, it’s win for Nixon, who on Wednesday praised the Senate for blocking what he described as an “unnecessary, unconstitutional and unsafe nullification bill.”