On March 7, a U.S. federal judge ruled that a Missouri state law invalidating several federal gun laws is unconstitutional, providing a victory for the U.S. Justice Department in its attempt to have the law overturned. The case concerns a measure signed into law in 2021 by Republican Governor Mike Parson, stating that certain federal gun laws infringe on the rights of individuals to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes in Jefferson City, Missouri, ruled that the state’s Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA) violates the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which holds that federal laws take priority over conflicting state laws. The judge, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, sided with President Joe Biden’s administration, calling the effects of the Republican-led state’s law “counterintuitive to its stated purpose.”
In response, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, a Republican, stated that he would appeal the decision, promising to defend “Missourians’ fundamental right to bear arms.” He added, “If the state legislature wants to expand upon the foundational rights codified in the Second Amendment, they have the authority to do that.”
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland welcomed the decision, stating that he was “gratified” by the judge’s ruling, which “will allow federal, state and local law enforcement in Missouri to work together to keep their communities safe from gun violence.”
Under the Missouri law, also known as H.B. 85, state or local law enforcement agencies could be fined $50,000 if they knowingly enforced federal laws purportedly nullified by the state measure. In a lawsuit filed in February of 2022, the Justice Department argued that the law had caused many state and local law enforcement agencies to stop voluntarily assisting in the enforcement of federal gun laws or even providing investigative assistance.
This ruling provides a crucial victory for the Justice Department, and it will be interesting to see how the state of Missouri will respond. The right to bear arms is a contentious issue in the United States, and the Missouri case is just one of many examples of the tension between federal and state gun laws.