Just when it seemed Missouri and the US federal government were going to have a showdown over gun laws, the state senate backed down.
By the slimmest of margins, the Missouri Senate Wednesday failed to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would have nullified all federal gun laws within the state. Needing 23 votes to reach the necessary two-thirds majority for an override, the bill received only 22. Twelve senators voted against it. It was a painful defeat for the bill’s supporters, who were hopeful after the House, earlier in the day, had voted 109-49 to override the veto, giving it the necessary supermajority support.
Republicans control both chambers. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon had vetoed the bill.
The bill’s language said any federal laws that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms” would be invalid within the state. As previously reported by Off The Grid News, the bill would have tested so-called nullification theories – the belief that states have the right to “nullify” federal laws.
Two Senate Republican leaders — President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey and Majority Leader Ron Richard – voted against the bill.
In a statement, Dempsey said he had several concerns about the bill, including his fear the bill “could allow frivolous lawsuits against our hard-working police officers and sheriffs’ deputies for acting in good faith in performance of their official duties.” Additionally, the bill would have allowed misdemeanor charges against federal officials who enforced federal gun laws.
Despite his “no” vote, Tom Dempsey said he still favors the core concept in the bill and hopes to pass a different version during the next session.
“My support of the Second Amendment is firm and enduring, but the issues that have been raised deserve to be addressed,” Dempsey said. “I wish I could simply propose an amendment to fix the flaws that have come to light but unfortunately, the Missouri Constitution (which I also respect) does not allow us to amend a bill during veto session – we are forced to make a ‘take it or leave it’ decision.
“The new session of the Legislature starts in less than four months,” he added. “As pro tem, I will do all I can to fast-track a bill that will address the serious concerns I have raised. I believe we can pass a much better bill next year, and I am fully supportive of that effort.”
Ron Richard, also, said he wanted to see a bill pass during the next session.
“I pledge to you, in the next four months, legislation will be filed regarding the Second Amendment Preservation Act that is constitutional and does not hinder law enforcement officers’ ability to do their jobs,” Richard said.
Under the nullification theory, individual states have the right to invalidate federal laws because individual states preceded the Union and formed the US under a “compact” or agreement. The Declaration of Independence, supporters say, speaks of “free and independent states.”
Gov. Jay Nixon, though, said in his veto that he believes the bill violates Article VI, Clause 2, of the US Constitution – the Supremacy Clause, which courts have interpreted to give precedence of federal laws over state laws. Many legal experts believe the bill, if it becomes law, won’t survive in court.
The Supremacy Clause reads, in part:
“This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”
Rep. Doug Funderburk, a Republican, had said the bill was an attempt to “push back the tyranny of an out-of-control and incompetent federal government.”