Our Opinion: Democrats scurry to avoid GOP trap

The perfect trap is one that can’t be avoided.

Republican lawmakers have devised gun legislation that will be detrimental to Democrats, whether they vote to sustain or override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto.

The proposed state law sets up a dare to the U.S. Constitution’s “supremacy clause,” which gives federal law precedence over state statute when the two conflict.

The state measure takes an extra step beyond nullifying federal gun-control. It also creates criminal penalties for federal agents who attempt to enforce the laws they have sworn to uphold.

Legal scholars contend the state law, if enacted, could not withstand a court challenge.

And Republicans have been denounced for playing to their supporters with a measure they know is unconstitutional.

Despite these criticisms and a gubernatorial veto, the proposal may become law, if two-thirds of the members of each house override the veto in September.

Its chances improved recently, when a number of Democrats acknowledged they will vote to override the veto, even though they believe the law is unconstitutional.

Why support a flawed proposal?

Because they do not want to be perceived by constituents — or challenged by opponents — as being anti-gun.

As state Rep. Ben Harris, D-Hillsboro, observed: “Being a rural-area Democrat, if you don’t vote for any gun bill, it will kill you. That’s what the Republicans want you to do is vote against it, because if you vote against it, they’ll send one mailer every week just blasting you about guns, and you’ll lose re-election.”

The trap leaves Democrats between a proverbial rock, supporting an unconstitutional bill, and a hard place, opposing the bill and suffering political consequences.

A vote to override the veto may be criticized as spineless; a vote to sustain may be deemed self-serving.

Republicans who crafted this bill must be feeling pretty self-satisfied as the veto session approaches.

We would caution, however, against becoming too clever.

If the state somehow succeeds in nullifying a provision of the U.S. Constitution, the precedent could create a domino effect.

And, among those dominoes in the U.S. Constitution is the Second Amendment — the right to bear arms.

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