Less than a week after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed the state’s Second Amendment sanctuary law, the U.S. Department of Justice is applying pressure.
The law, dubbed the “Second Amendment Preservation Act” (SAPA), says federal actions that infringe on individuals’ Second Amendment rights “shall be invalid in this state, shall not be recognized by this state, shall be specifically rejected by this state, and shall not be enforced by this state.”
It prohibits state officials from enforcing federal firearms laws, and outlaws any taxes and fees imposed on guns, ammunition, or firearm accessories “not common to all other goods and services and that might reasonably be expected to create a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items.” Gun registration, tracking, and confiscation schemes also fall under this prohibited category.
Writing for the Justice Department, Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton argues that the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause invalidates the SAPA. “Under our federal system, a state cannot nullify federal law,” he says. “Pursuant to the Supremacy Clause, federal law preempts state laws when, among other things, state laws ‘interfere with, or are contrary to, federal law’—commonly referred to as conflict preemption.”
Boynton also argues that the law would disrupt joint federal-state initiatives, and he makes veiled threats about rescinding the state’s federal funding if they try to enforce the law.
“HB 85 threatens to immediately disrupt the working relationship between federal and state law enforcement officers, many of whom work shoulder-to-shoulder on various joint task forces, for which Missouri receives ample federal grants and other technical assistance,” Boynton says. “In addition, HB 85 risks sowing confusion among both the regulated community of federal firearms licensees, who are obligated under criminal penalty to comply with federal law, and Missouri citizens. And as drafted, HB 85 raises significant concerns under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.”
“The public safety of the people of the United States and citizens of Missouri is paramount,” he says.
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Missouri’s governor and attorney general fired back today, calling Boynton’s letter “federal overreach” on Second Amendment rights.
“Missouri is not attempting to nullify federal law,” Gov. Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt wrote in a letter to Boynton. “Instead, Missouri is defending its people from federal government overreach by prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from being used by the federal government to infringe Missourians’ right to keep and bear arms.”
“Your letter… provides no confidence that the Biden Administration has retreated from this radical, anti-gun position. Indeed, your letter explicitly endorses the view the federal laws authorizing the ‘confiscation’ of firearms from law-abiding gun owners would be constitutional and valid,” they continue. “We do not share your radical view that federal law may effectively cancel out the fundamental liberty equally guaranteed both by the Second Amendment and the Missouri Constitution.”
Anti-gun groups have applauded Biden’s DOJ for “putting Missouri on notice.”
“Wherever state or local lawmakers try to nullify federal gun laws, they undermine efforts to protect the public from gun violence,” said Eric Tirschwell, managing director for Everytown Law. “This action from the Department of Justice should put lawmakers in several states on notice that they may soon face legal action over these extreme and unconstitutional efforts to block enforcement of federal law. The agency’s attention to this serious issue is good news for public safety.”
So far, no litigation has been announced, but Everytown has vowed to sue states for Second Amendment sanctuary laws.
DOJ’s Letter to Missouri:
Response by Missouri Governor and Attorney General: