Big news out of Missouri, where a state judge has declined to declare the state’s new Second Amendment Preservation Act unconstitutional. In a ruling issued Friday morning, Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green sided with the state, rejecting the arguments made by two counties and the city of St. Louis (as well as the Biden Justice Department) that the new law is a violation of the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.
In his ruling, Green didn’t foreclose future efforts to challenge the law, but the decision means that Second Amendment Preservation Act will take effect on Saturday as lawmakers intended.
“Declaratory relief requires a justiciable controversy, which includes the absence of an adequate remedy at law,” Green wrote. “Thus, if Plaintiffs have an adequate remedy at law, then the Court cannot issue declaratory relief.”
He said the plaintiffs “directed this Court” to at least two lawsuits “filed against them under this statute.”
“The constitutional issues raised in this matter should be litigated (if at all) by each plaintiff in each separate case,” Green said.
“Plaintiffs’ request for declaratory relief is denied,” he said.
While the Biden administration didn’t formally join the lawsuit, it did submit briefs in support of the challenge, and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt was quick to highlight the opposition to the new law from Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“Today’s ruling was an important victory for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office over the Biden Department of Justice, and for the Second Amendment rights of all Missourians,” Schmitt said. “Since the Second Amendment Preservation Act was passed, I promised to fiercely defend the law and Missourians’ Second Amendment rights — that’s exactly what we did in this case and will continue to do moving forward.”
This likely won’t be the last legal challenge to SAPA, but it does raise the question of whether or not the Department of Justice will file a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the law. The DOJ previously sent a letter to AG Schmitt and Gov. Mike Parson warning that the new law violated the U.S. Constitution, but now that Judge Green has ruled otherwise Garland has a tough decision to make: allow the law to go unchallenged in federal court, back the local governments in the pending cases referenced by the judge, urge others to pick up the fight with a new lawsuit, or deploy the DOJ itself to fight the law on constitutional grounds.
For the moment, the Justice Department is keeping mum about the judge’s decision, and I wouldn’t expect any sort of official response until next week at the earliest. While Judge Green declined to block the Second Amendment Preservation Act from taking effect on Saturday, he also didn’t weigh in on the constitutionality of the law itself, so Merrick Garland is welcome to take the arguments that the DOJ made in its letter to Missouri’s governor and AG to a federal judge in the state. I won’t be surprised, however, if the Biden administration takes more of a hands-off approach than wading in to directly challenge the new law on constitutional grounds. If they were eager for a head-on confrontation with Missouri, they could have filed their own lawsuit weeks ago, but instead they chose to take a back seat to the state-level challenge that was tossed out today.