Once again, gun extremists in the General Assembly tried this session to push legislation to bar enforcement in Missouri of any federal firearms laws that they view as infringing on Second Amendment rights. In addition to reopening an argument about federalism that was settled a century and a half ago, this tone-deaf measure is an affront to all the St. Louis gun victims who’ve died because those same legislators refuse to allow even the most common sense regulation of firearms. Luckily, the urgency of the coronavirus pandemic sidetracked their efforts – for now.


The Second Amendment’s defense of the right to bear arms is specifically predicated on the necessity of “a well-regulated Militia” for “the security of a free state.” Taken at face value, then, Missouri’s so-called Second Amendment Preservation Act would seem to be unnecessary – since, last we heard, the federal government wasn’t trying to disband the Missouri National Guard.


Of course, the gun culture warriors pushing this measure conveniently ignore half the wording of the amendment they claim to cherish. It’s unfortunate that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 did exactly that, ruling that the “militia” language somehow enshrines individual gun rights. Still, even that deeply flawed decision specified that government has a right to regulate guns for public safety. That caveat, too, is conveniently ignored by the gun crowd, which seems to operate on a principle of cherry-picking what it likes from founding documents and court opinions.


Through House Bill 1637, they tried it with our very form of government. America is made up of states that govern locally, under a federal government that determines national policies. Federal law is, as the Constitution puts it, “the supreme Law of the Land.” Americans can challenge it in court, or via elections, but state governments don’t get to just ignore federal laws they don’t like.


Some Missouri Republicans apparently didn’t get that memo – and they seem to have slept through the part of history class where the Confederacy lost the Civil War. That was the final word on whether states can just go their own way if they don’t like this federal law or that one. They can’t.


Sadly, the issue as it relates to guns is, for the moment, hypothetical, since federal law is almost as lax as Missouri law in addressing gun violence. Some states have enacted, for example, universal criminal background checks, but neither Jefferson City nor Washington currently abides that level of sanity regarding firearms. No wonder Missouri’s gun-death rate is well above the national average.


This legislation might sound like some doomed right-wing nuttery designed mainly for show, but a similar measure came dangerously close to becoming law a few years ago. For now, at least, the pandemic has helped ensure this nonsense goes nowhere.


– St. Louis Post-Dispatch