JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The Missouri House passed on Thursday a bill to ban local police from enforcing federal gun laws, an effort to stymie implementation of any new federal gun restrictions enacted under President Joe Biden, a Democrat.
The Republican-led House voted 103-43 in favor of the bill.
“We’re telling Robert Beto O’Rourke and everybody else that hell yes, we’re standing up to preserve the Second Amendment rights of our constituents,” said Rep. Nick Schroer, a Republican, referring to the former Texas congressman and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
If enacted, the Missouri measure would penalize local police departments if their officers enforce federal gun laws. Those agencies could be sued by those who broke federal gun laws and would face minimum $50,000 fines.
“We’re literally defunding our law enforcement agencies to give that money to criminals,” Rep. Peter Meredith, D-St. Louis, said before asking the House to vote against the bill. “This is not hyperbole.”
Federal law enforcement could still enforce federal gun laws, but any Missouri officers would be barred from helping. Missouri police also could no longer serve on any federal gun law task forces.
The bill has gotten pushback from some Missouri law enforcement agencies.
Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott said in a letter to lawmakers and other Missouri elected officials last week that his agency often worked with federal agencies to prosecute gun offenses that were both state and federal crimes.
He said federal convictions “generally yield much longer sentences, keeping our most dangerous felons who threaten our community off the streets for longer periods of time.” Arnott wrote that the bill would “severely inhibit” prosecution of dangerous criminals.
House lawmakers on Wednesday stripped the bill of provisions that would have penalized individual officers who enforced federal gun laws, in an effort to make it more appealing to police. The bill instead penalizes police agencies for violations.
“If they don’t violate a person’s Second Amendment rights, they have nothing to worry about,” bill sponsor Rep. Jered Taylor, a Republican, said.
The measure now heads to the Republican-led state Senate for consideration.