The purpose behind Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act was pretty simple: to ensure that any new federal gun control laws or executive actions handed down from Washington, D.C. wouldn’t be enforced by state or local law enforcement in Missouri itself. But since the law’s taken effect, some law enforcement officials have complained that the measure prevents them from working with federal agencies altogether because of uncertainty over how the law might be enforced against them.
Under SAPA, individual officers who violate the law and do help enforce new gun control measures can be sued, and that’s led to a lawsuit filed by the city of St. Louis and two Missouri counties. The Biden administration has also criticized the new law, filing a brief in support of the legal challenge, but so far the courts have not been inclined to step in and halt enforcement of the Second Amendment Preservation Act.
This week Missouri Gov. Mike Parson spoke at a prayer breakfast for fallen police officers, and was quizzed by local media about the SAPA law. Parson maintains that the measure was meant to be more of a political statement than anything else, and said he doesn’t want to see it get in the way of inter-agency cooperation.
“I think it’s much more of a political issue, that statement was, I believe in the state of Missouri,” he said. “It was basically with the new change of administrations. Some of the things said on the political front was that people are going to protect the Second Amendment in this state. And I think that was more of a statement, by far, that they were saying to the President and his Administration. Far more than they were to local police departments. But, I think there’s a way to work forward through that. I think we all need to understand. When you look at Operation Legend. When you look at operations, joint that we have done together. Something that I have been a career with. Law enforcement has to work together to be successful. And we’re going to find a way to do that.”
Does that mean that Parson is open to amending the Second Amendment Preservation Act, even at the expense of weakening the state law? While the governor was non-committal, that’s exactly what critics of the measure are calling for.
When asked if SAPA needs to be revised or even rewritten, the governor had this response: “Look, I’m not going to go down that road until I talk to law enforcement and really get that feedback and see what the problems are. And then we can see if we can make adjustments. I’ll go back to what I said originally, I don’t think anyone here is wanting to hinder law enforcement from doing the job of taking bad guys off the street. And that’s exactly what we want to do every day. And if that means partnering with other agencies, we’re more than willing to do that. I am as governor.”
That call for feedback drew an immediate response from the local law enforcement leaders who’ve raised concerns about SAPA.
Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver had this to say on Thursday, September 23:
“This is the common-sense solution that I would expect from Governor Parson. With Governor Parson’s leadership, I am confident, that we can continue to protect our citizen’s 2nd Amendment rights and make changes to SAPA that will untie the hands of law enforcement in prosecuting the most violent and dangerous criminals on our streets.”
Rather than amending the existing law, I’d like to see the state’s Attorney General issue an advisory opinion on the new law that makes it clear there’s nothing in the Second Amendment Preservation Act that would prevent state and local police from assisting in criminal investigations into crimes of violence, drug trafficking, or gang-related activity. My suspicion is that most of the criticism of the bill coming from law enforcement has to do with the lack of qualified immunity for any officer who “knowingly deprives a citizen of Missouri of the rights or privileges” under the federal or state constitutions, but frankly, there should be consequences for any officer who does so.
I agree with Parson that the intent of the Second Amendment Preservation Act was not to prevent any and all cooperation between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. I’m just not convinced that SAPA is actually the problem that some of these agencies make it out to be.