Officials this week arrested two dozen Missourians and a Texas man on federal drug and weapons charges, based on three indictments issued by a St. Louis-based federal grand jury.
U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said the case involved both the distribution and manufacture of large amounts of methamphetamine in eastern Missouri from October 2010 through this month.
Callahan - a former Cole County prosecutor and circuit judge - noted the case provides "another example of some of the problems" with the Missouri Legislature's "nullification" law that could be the subject of a veto override this week.
In House Bill 436, which is called the "Second Amendment Preservation Act," Missouri lawmakers wrote: "Any Missouri citizen who has been subject to an effort to enforce any of the infringements on the right to keep and bear arms ... shall have a private cause of action for declaratory judgment and for damages against any person or entity attempting such enforcement."
Callahan said: "If it were the law today, criminal defendants in this case would have the right to sue the law enforcement officers who investigated the case, and the law enforcement officers would be defendants in both civil and criminal lawsuits.
"I can't believe this is what the legislature intended."
The case was a joint operation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Missouri Highway Patrol, St. Charles and Jefferson County sheriff's offices; the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department; and multiple local law enforcement agencies.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannette Graviss is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office of Eastern Missouri.
The new law - which already would be in effect if Gov. Jay Nixon had not vetoed it - also says: "No public officer or employee of this state shall have any authority to enforce or attempt to enforce any of the infringements on the right to keep and bear arms ..."
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster wrote lawmakers last week that language, if "read strictly, requires Highway Patrol troopers, deputy sheriffs and police officers across Missouri to immediately remove themselves from any federal/state joint task forces dealing in whole or in part with the enforcement of federal gun laws."
Several law enforcement groups, including the Missouri Sheriff's Association, have urged lawmakers to sustain Nxon's veto because of that issue.
Callahan said conviction of the federal drug charges could result in sentences of 10 years to life in prison.
Conviction of the firearms charges carries up to 10 years in prison, he said.
Those indicted include 13 people from the St. Louis area, five from Bonne Terre, one person each from Imperial, Arnold, Farmington, Park Hills, St. Clair, and Union, and one man from Corinth, Texas.
The youngest person charged is 33.
The oldest is 66.
Several of the people arrested are members of the Saddle Tramps Motorcycle Club, including its president, Callahan said.