St. Louis city and the county of St. Louis filed a lawsuit Monday to block a new Missouri law that bans local law enforcement from enforcing so-called “invalid” federal gun laws.
The year “2020 was the deadliest year of gun violence in our state’s history, and now the Missouri legislature is throwing up barriers to stop police from doing their most important job – preventing and solving violent crime,” St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones said in a statement. “This harmful and unconstitutional law takes away tools our communities need to prevent gun violence.
— Mayor Tishaura O. Jones (@saintlouismayor) June 21, 2021
St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page issued a statement, saying the new law welcomes gun violence.
“This new law is like the state holding out a sign that says ‘Come Commit Gun Violence here.’ We can’t expect people to stay in St. Louis or to move their businesses here if we don’t do everything we can to reduce gun violence in the region, but this new law sends the opposite message to our residents and business community.”
The police chief of St. Louis suburb O’Fallon resigned after the legislation was passed, according to CBS News. Outgoing Chief Philip Dupuis claimed the law would “decrease public safety and increase frivolous lawsuits designed to harass and penalize good, hard-working law enforcement agencies.”
The Missouri Sheriff’s Association also said they opposed the legislation, according to KSDK.
“Our association, compromised of 114 sheriffs, has even been accused of being against our citizens’ right to bear arms. This disingenuous and misleading campaign is unjustified and is intended to cause undue alarm for our constituents.”
Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed a law nullifying federal gun laws relating to gun registration and the tracking of guns by domestic violence offenders, the Kansas City Star reported. Local law enforcement agencies are prohibited from helping federal agents enforcing laws deemed “invalid.” Local police departments can be sued for up to $50,000 if they enforce federal law, according to the report.
Federal agents, however, are still permitted to enforce federal laws.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) also warned that the state cannot disregard federal gun laws, citing the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause to claim “a state cannot nullify federal law.” (RELATED: 9th Circuit Blocks Lower Court’s Overturning Of California’s Assault Weapons Ban)
Parson responded to the DOJ arguing “Missouri has the right to refuse to enforce constitutional infringements by the federal government.”
“The State of Missouri has every right under our system of government and the Tenth Amendment to place limitations on what state and local officials may do,” Parson wrote. “The Department of Justice has identified no conflict with the federal law from the Second Amendment Preservation Act’s restrictions on state activities and hiring practices.”
Kermit Roosevelt, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice David Souter, explained to the Daily Caller that while “any valid federal law trumps state law,” an “unconstitutional federal law does not.”
Still, the constitutionality of the law itself is up to the courts to decide. When it comes to enforcing federal law, however, “states have more authority.”
“If they want to decline to enforce federal law, that’s within the power of the state and the federal government cannot make them do it,” Roosevelt said.
“The state has the power to tell state officials not to enforce federal law even if the federal law is valid, so whether federal laws violate the Second Amendment doesn’t affect that analysis. The state doesn’t have the power to declare federal law unconstitutional or to relieve individuals from the obligation of following federal law, so the Missouri law doesn’t do anything in that regard.”