And Attorney General Eric Schmitt is going to get the chance to do so. Just days after delivering an absolute smackdown to Joe Biden’s Justice Department over the DOJ’s questioning of the state’s new Second Amendment Preservation Act, the Attorney General has been met with a legal challenge to the new law.
It’s not the Biden administration that’s suing over the measure prohibiting local police departments cooperating with federal agencies in enforcing any new restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms imposed on Missourians from Washington, D.C., however. Instead, the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County filed suit in state court on Monday, echoing the Biden administration’s claims that the Second Amendment Preservation Act violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“2020 was the deadliest year of gun violence in our state’s history, and now the Missouri legislature is throwing up barriers to stop police from doing their most important job — preventing and solving violent crime,” Mayor Tishaura Jones said in a press release. “This harmful and unconstitutional law takes away tools our communities need to prevent gun violence. I’m proud to partner with St. Louis County in this effort to protect our region and stop this law.”
As it happens, Attorney General Eric Schmitt joined me on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, and while the lawsuit hadn’t been announced when we spoke, I did ask him about the prospects of the law being challenged by anti-gun politicians in the state, and Schimitt told me that he and his office are prepared to defend the law against any litigation.
“This is the legislature’s will, and the Second Amendment is a fundamental right,” said Schmitt, adding that “this country was founded on an idea which was very different and stands apart from history, which is that everyone else had it wrong before. Our rights don’t come from a king or queen or any government. They come from God. Government is just our shared project to protect those rights.”
When I asked Schmitt specifically about the prospects of a lawsuit coming from anti-gun localities instead of from the Biden administration, Schmitt was confident that the law would be upheld.
“Just as the states created the federal government, the states also have enabling legislation that allow political subdivisions of the state, and there’s a reason why they’re called ‘subdivisions’, to exist; whether it’s counties or cities. So ultimately the states reign supreme in our hierarchy, right? That’s the tradition of this country and it still remains. We’ve been successful in the past, for example, when in the St. Louis area… a number of municipalities were all trying to implement different minimum wage laws or paper or plastic laws. Having this patchwork of laws that would trump state law has been proven to be illegal. So we’re pretty confident that if those challenges come to the will of the legislature, which is a reflection of the will of the people, [the law] will ultimately be upheld.”
We’ve already seen the chief of police in the St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon, Missouri resign over the new law, which he says could lead to legal jeopardy for rank-and-file officers who seize firearms during an investigation. Phillip Dupuis says he’s concerned that the new law “removes sovereign immunity and appears to allow law enforcement agencies and individual police officers to be sued for even good faith justified seizures of firearms in emergency circumstances,” but Attorney General Schmitt says those fears are unfounded.
“This law attempts to not allow local or state officials from enforcing unconstitutional federal laws against law-abiding citizens. So we’re not talking about violent criminals. Protecting the Second Amendment is very important, and prosecuting violent criminals is very important, and I think both things can happen at the same time.”
Of course, Missouri isn’t the only state to adopt Second Amendment Sanctuary or Second Amendment Preservation laws this session, though it appears that the DOJ hasn’t targeted states like Tennessee, Oklahoma, or Texas with letters of their own. Schmitt notes that he’s part of a coalition of 23 Attorneys General around the country who are urging the Supreme Court to strike down New York’s “may issue” carry laws, and expressed hope that if the Second Amendment Preservation Act is challenged (as it now has been), that coalition will come to the defense of the state and its new law.
You can read the complaint filed by St. Louis City and County here. My initial thoughts after reading through the complaint is that the plaintiffs are entirely off-base when they claim that the Second Amendment Preservation Act is an attempt to “nullify” federal law, as opposed to what the law actually says; that state and local governments cannot assist the federal government in enforcing federal laws. As Schmitt pointed out in his response to the DOJ, that fits squarely within Supreme Court precedent stating that the federal government cannot compel states to enforce federal law. The argument that the new law violates the Missouri Constitution because it “usurps the powers and authorities” given to local governments is an interesting one, but as Schmitt pointed out, the state Supreme Court has previously ruled that localities don’t have the authority to impose bans on plastic bags, so clearly the “powers and authorities” granted to cities and counties under the state Constitution are not unlimited in their scope.
Schmitt and Gov. Parson said last week that he was ready to defend the Second Amendment Preservation Act “tooth and nail,” and now they’ve got their chance. In the meantime, I can’t wait to hear St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones explain to her constituents how her expressed desire to “reimagine policing” fits with her newfound eagerness to cooperate with federal authorities to arrest and imprison residents for non-violent, possessory, federal gun control offenses. Jones won election by calling an overhaul of the current criminal justice system, but now she’s embracing the status quo in a very big way.