OPINION

Bad Missouri bill targets the police

By Rep. Robert Sauls

My name is state Rep. Robert Sauls, and I represent the 21st District in Independence. I was born and raised here. I am a prior prosecutor and current member of the United States military. I have owned firearms since I was 13 years old.

I do not share the same concerns over guns that some members in my party share. Let me be clear of something, I am a Democrat and I am not coming to take your guns. I have my own. 

I wanted to be clear so that you might understand my position because on Feb. 4, the Missouri House of Representatives passed the “Second Amendment Preservation Act.” I want to be clear that this bill is not about protecting the Second Amendment. It is about driving a wedge between Democratic and Republican voters, and it suggests that Democrats do not support the Second Amendment. HB 85 is a dangerous piece of legislation being used to virtue signal to the Republican base that GOP elected officials in Missouri will stand in defiance of any federal regulation on guns, even current law. 

Aside from the questionable constitutionality of the bill, one of its most glaring problems relates to the fines that will be levied on local police departments as well as the restriction on prosecutorial authority.

The thrust of the bill is that local law enforcement will not be allowed to coordinate with federal authorities on the enforcement of federal gun laws. Not a fictitious, nonexistent and highly unlikely federal gun law that repeals the Second Amendment, but current federal laws.

If this law is passed out of the Missouri Senate and then is signed into law by the governor, the Independence Police Department could be fined any amount greater than $50,000 if an Independence police officer gives a tip to the FBI or other federal agencies about a criminal who is in possession of federally illegal firearms or equipment.

That fine could be $50,000 or $50 million because there is no cap on the fine. That fine would negatively impact the Independence Police Department’s budget, making it harder to hire, keep, protect and train police. To add insult to injury, that fine will go to the criminal. 

As a member of the military and a former prosecutor, I believe in the rule of law. I have witnessed federal and state law enforcement officers working together on task forces. I think that law and order are essential to a healthy and prosperous society. I’ve been a gun owner since I was a child.

I believe in the Second Amendment and that protecting it is essential, but HB 85 completely undermines law enforcement’s authority. The bill subverts the authority of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute federal gun crimes. What makes it worse is that police departments will be defunded if law enforcement officers do their jobs, and it gives the fine to criminals.

There is a pandemic going on. People are dying. We should prioritize issues that matter right now ahead of chumming the water for our respective bases.