Editorial

Firearm bill

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The following editorials represent our views on two controversial measures before Missouri lawmakers during a veto override session, which begins Sept. 11.

House Bill No. 436

"Second Amendment Preservation Act"

This bill is widely considered unconstitutional even by conservatives who say they hold the U.S. Constitution dear. Some lawmakers have said publicly they are supporting it simply because they cannot afford to take an "anti-gun" stand on to the political battlefield. In effect, supporters are putting gun rights politics above all else, including the First Amendment.

The bill's foremost intent is to discard all federal gun control laws and make it illegal for federal law enforcement officials to enforce federal gun laws in Missouri.

Specifically:

"All federal acts, laws, orders, rules, and regulations, whether past, present, or future, which infringe on the people's right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 23 of the Missouri Constitution 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."

And:

"Any official, agent, or employee of the United States government who enforces or attempts to enforce any of the infringements on the right to keep and bear arms included in subsection 3 of this section is guilty of a class A misdemeanor."

It seems a rather bold move to pass such a measure; one that would certainly be challenged in the courts, anyway. But the bill, which purports the Missouri general assembly to be "resolved to support and defend the United States Constitution against every aggression" actually threatens the First Amendment much more than it protects the Second.

In a knee-jerk reaction to a poor choice by a New York newspaper that published addresses of gun owners, Missouri lawmakers wrote the following language:

"No person or entity shall publish the name, address, or other identifying information of any individual who owns a firearm or who is an applicant for or holder of any license, certificate, permit, or endorsement which allows such individual to own, acquire, possess, or carry a firearm."

This law could make it a misdemeanor to publish stories about murders where firearms were involved. It could mean police reports that include weapons charges could be considered a crime in and of itself. It could be illegal to publish photos of hunters and their bucks and turkeys. It may be a crime to write about a person who defended himself or who is taking a conceal-carry course.

So much for protecting the Constitution. This is a bad bill, put together sloppily, which treads on the First Amendment. In trying to make a political statement, lawmakers who profess to believe in the Constitution have, inadvertently or not, well, shot themselves in the foot. Some have defended themselves by saying they didn't know about certain clauses in the legislation. Well, now they do. To override the governor's veto at this point just makes them look worse.

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