Missouri's New Gun Law Divides Police Missouri's new gun law, which imposes a $50,000 fine on any state or local official who enforces a federal gun law that is not also state law, has a "chilling effect" on some police.

New 2nd Amendment Protections In Missouri Split Law Enforcement

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Biden administration is hoping to curb gun deaths after a troubling rise. 2020 was the deadliest year for gun violence in decades. At the same time, states are continuing to push what some call Second Amendment sanctuary laws to preempt any tighter measures that may be coming from Washington. Here's more from KCUR's Luke Martin in Missouri.

LUKE MARTIN, BYLINE: June 12 was a big day for gun rights advocates in the Show Me state.

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MIKE PARSON: You've had the vice president of the United States get up in an open forum when she was running for president...

MARTIN: This is Governor Mike Parson that day.

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PARSON: And any particular weapon she decided she didn't like, she was going to come to your house on your front door and take it away. Well, not in Missouri, she's not. I can tell you that.

MARTIN: The new law here is called the Second Amendment Preservation Act, and Parson signed it at a gun shop in Lee's Summit called Frontier Justice. The rule imposes a $50,000 fine on any state or local official who enforces a federal gun law that's not also a law in Missouri. It also says federal laws infringing the Second Amendment are invalid in Missouri.

LAUREN ARTHUR: This is a stupid, dangerous and unconstitutional law.

MARTIN: That's state Senator Lauren Arthur, a Democrat from Kansas City. She and other critics are pointing to what's called the supremacy clause. That's that part of the U.S. Constitution that says federal laws overrule state ones in all cases. But it's not just partisans who have second thoughts about the new rule. A police chief in suburban St. Louis resigned over it, and prosecutors in the attorney general's office have backed away from working with federal authorities on nearly two dozen drug, gun and carjacking cases. Senator Arthur says it shows the law is having an immediate negative impact.

ARTHUR: And if I'm a criminal looking to commit federal gun felonies, I'd say Missouri is a pretty great place to break the law now.

MARTIN: Missouri's law enforcement community is split on the matter. A spokesperson for the Kansas City Police Department says the new rule won't change their day-to-day jobs much. But Kevin Merritt, president of the Missouri Sheriffs Association, says many of his members aren't thrilled.

KEVIN MERRITT: The language has what they call a chilling effect on local law enforcement cooperating with federal authorities. It opens them up so much for liability based on unknown circumstances.

MARTIN: Others worry the new law could keep local police from confiscating guns from Missourians convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. Here's Tara Bennett from the state chapter of Moms Demand Action.

TARA BENNETT: Missouri is in the middle of a gun violence crisis. And instead of acting, the state leaders are punishing local law enforcement for doing their jobs and protecting us from gun violence.

MARTIN: Depending on how you count them, Missouri is now the 14th state with a Second Amendment sanctuary law. This year alone, 11 states have passed laws aimed at either nullifying certain federal gun laws or preventing state and local police from enforcing them. To no one's surprise, the law's fate will be decided in court. A week after the bill was signed, St. Louis City and County filed suit over it, and Kansas City's mayor has expressed interest in joining the case. A spokesperson from Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office called the lawsuit partisan and told NPR in an email, we will continue our efforts to prosecute violent crime, and we will not shy away from defending the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

For NPR News, I'm Luke Martin in Kansas City.

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