Lawmakers set to write new gun bill

Cole County Sheriff Greg White said Thursday he’s pleased lawmakers failed to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a controversial gun rights bill.

“Among other errors, this bill could have potentially allowed illegal immigrants to purchase firearms,” White explained. “It needs work and I’m glad that we get another session to correct some issues.”

The bill — House Bill 436 — was called the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” and included language prohibiting law officers from enforcing any federal laws or regulations “whether past, present, or future, which infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms ...”

Those laws and regulations, the Legislature said — including laws passed by Congress in 1934 and 1968, although no federal court has ruled them to be unconstitutional — “shall be invalid in this state, shall not be recognized by this state, shall be specifically rejected by this state, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in this state.”

The Missouri Sheriffs Assn. issued a news release Thursday that said: “There is no doubt it was initially passed by the legislature with an intention to protect Missouri citizens. However, after close review, the legislation contained several provisions which caused serious concern for Missouri Sheriffs.”

And Missouri’s statewide Fraternal Order of Police said late Wednesday: “After careful and thoughtful review ... we came to the conclusion that certain provisions ... would be extremely detrimental to the safety of Missouri law enforcement officers and all citizens of Missouri.”

Two Republicans, including Rep. Jay Barnes, Jefferson City, joined House Democrats in voting against the override attempt, but the House passed the bill Wednesday night on a 109-49 vote.

But two Senate Republicans — President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, St. Charles, and Floor Leader Ron Richard, Joplin — joined the 10 Senate Democrats in upholding the veto, and the override attempt fell one vote short of the required two-thirds majority.

Complaints during the debate in both houses included its language nullifying federal law and its ban on publishing “the name, address, or other identifying information of any individual who owns a firearm or who is an applicant for ... a firearm.”

Opponents argued that language violated the Constitution’s First Amendment rights to free speech and a free press.

“All I can say is, my love of the Second Amendment didn’t trump my love of the First Amendment,” Dempsey told reporters after the Senate vote. “I just feel that we need to work harder on crafting the legislation (for next year) and we can begin doing that next week.”

Dempsey said lawmakers “need to move forward with great care” on any new bill.

Still, Richard told reporters: “I think ... we’re going to roll something out very quickly. ... I think the heightened discussion of this is going to require additional debate.”

Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, agreed a law still is needed: “I think it’s a very important bill (that) is clarification and gives certainty to Missourians as to their Second Amendment rights and how the federal government can intervene or not intervene.”

Dempsey said he regrets law enforcement groups didn’t join the process while the law was being written last spring.

But Missouri FOP President Kevin Ahlbrand said Thursday they originally had been told the bill was more of a message and they didn’t need to “worry about it.”

After it passed, he said, the FOP and other law enforcement groups consulted with “legal experts (who) advised us that portions of the bill almost certainly would be thrown out” by the courts, but other parts “that would be really bad for us ... had the very real possibility of becoming law.”

Ahlbrand said the FOP isn’t certain any bill is needed, but he looks forward to working with lawmakers next session if one is proposed.

White said: “I look forward to working closely with Senators Dempsey, Richard and Kehoe to fulfill their commitment to present appropriate legislation to protect all Missouri gun owners this coming January.”

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