Jefferson City voters just approved a public safety sales tax to increase police salaries, help recruit new officers and upgrade equipment for our local police department. But while hard-working taxpayers are voting to expand funding for law enforcement, the Missouri Legislature is working hard to do the opposite. Missouri's "Second Amendment Preservation Act" (SAPA), which makes it illegal to enforce any federal gun law in Missouri and subjects local police departments to a $50,000 liability for violating the law, was the lead story on CBS' 60 Minutes last week. According to Missouri law enforcement and prosecutors interviewed in the story, the law "has fundamentally changed the criminal justice system and how it works in Missouri." It has been routine for local police to work with federal partners to investigate and solve crimes, but no more. The Missouri Highway Patrol has severed investigative ties with federal agencies and already criminals are benefiting from the passage of this law.
For example, officers in Poplar Bluff were faced with a difficult decision whether to send spent bullet casings from a murder investigation to the ATF for tracing or dropping the investigation and risking the criminal going free — all to avoid their department being hit with a $50,000 fine and officers being dragged into a lawsuit. Already, a drug dealer arrested with firearms has sued a Missouri police department under SAPA and the officers involved have indicated they've had enough. As one prosecutor said, "I'm afraid that we're gonna make it so difficult to be a police officer in this country that nobody's gonna wanna do it." Where domestic violence incidents involving guns are normally referred to federal attorneys for prosecution under federal law (because Missouri's legislature has failed to adopt similar state protections for victims), local law enforcement is now prohibited from doing so under SAPA — essentially abandoning victims of domestic violence perpetrated by guns.
A local prosecuting attorney opined that he doubted the public was aware of what was in this legislation. This community has done its part to fund and modernize our local police department and provide incentives to become an officer, but the Legislature has placed our police departments in greater financial jeopardy and made it more difficult, and dangerous, for officers to do their jobs. Perhaps Reps. Dave Griffith and Rudy Veit, and Sen. Mike Bernskoetter can explain in their weekly articles in this newspaper.