Two local state representatives have cosponsored a bill that would make it a crime for U.S. government agents to enforce proposed new federal gun laws.
State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, and State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, have pledged support of House Bill 170, which has been filed in the wake of new gun control measures proposed by President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
The House bill was sponsored by State Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany.
The bill states that it would be illegal to enforce federal gun laws in Missouri if the firearms are “owned or manufactured commercially or privately in the state of Missouri” and remain in the state.
U.S. agents would be guilty of felonies if they attempted to enforce federal laws against such guns, the bill adds.
Residents charged with violating federal gun laws can ask to be represented by the Missouri attorney general, the bill says.
Finally, the bill states that federal laws created on or after Jan. 1 are unenforceable in Missouri if they require gun registration, restrict semi-automatic firearms and limit magazine sizes.
Obama laid out a plan Tuesday to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, increase background checks and improve mental health services, especially for young people.
Not all members of the Missouri General Assembly oppose Obama’s plan.
State Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, said the proposed House bill that seeks to charge federal agents with crimes is “almost laughable because it’s not constitutional.”
State law does not supersede federal law, she said.
The bill is nothing but “backlash against the president’s initiative,” Newman said, adding, “I believe it’s an emotional response.”
Even if it passes, it has no constitutional basis, she said.
There are more important issues for the Legislature to devote its time to instead of making political statements, Newman said.
A similar bill has also been filed in the state Senate, and it is sponsored by State Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown.
Hinson said the House bill pertains to states’ rights.
The federal government should not be restricting gun rights when the firearms are made in Missouri, stay in Missouri and bought in Missouri, he said.
Hinson said he has not formed a formal opinion on Obama’s plan, but he said federal agencies should not be allowed to come to Missouri to confiscate weapons from state residents.
The federal government is attempting to trump the state’s rights, and this bill is the only recourse Missouri has, Hinson said.
Hinson said he does not know if the bill will pass, saying there are a lot of other pressing issues to deal with in the General Assembly.
However, he said he was skeptical if Gov. Jay Nixon would sign it. If the governor vetoed it, the Legislature could possibly override the veto, Hinson said.
Curtman said the Second Amendment must be protected, adding that he disagrees with the president issuing executive orders related to gun laws without congressional approval.
Curtman also disagrees with the other parts of Obama’s plan that require approval from Congress.
“There’s nothing about it I like,” Curtman said.
Curtman, a former Marine, said he does not agree with banning assault weapons or limiting the size of gun clips.
The debate should be more focused on mental health, Curtman said, noting that unstable people should not have guns.
Curtman agreed that the bill may come across as strange to some people who are not used to hearing about federal agents being charged with felonies for enforcing laws.
But he said if Congress chooses to go against the Second Amendment then the state of Missouri should not submit to the violation.
Curtman said he is also worried about invasions of privacy, such as doctors asking patients if they own guns.
State Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, did not cosponsor the bill but said he supports it.
Schatz said the only reason he did not cosponsor it was because he did not have an opportunity to do so by the time it was filed.
He said his position on guns lines up with the National Rifle Association’s stance.
Schatz said he supports the bill because the state must push back against the federal government when actions contrary to the U.S. Constitution are pursued.
Roger Langendoerfer, owner of Stoneledge Pawn and Gun in Washington, said the big problem is that there is a lack of enforcement of current firearm laws.
For instance, he said little penalty is applied to people who attempt to illegally acquire guns.
People who attempt to “straw purchase” a gun, knowing it will be given to a felon, should be prosecuted, Langendoerfer said.
If Obama is attempting to “sidestep” the Second Amendment, then Langendoerfer said he supports the bill in the Legislature that would make it illegal for agents to enforce new federal restrictions on guns.
U.S. citizens who follow the law should be allowed to own assault weapons and magazines with as much capacity as they like, Langendoerfer added.
He said he conducts background checks for all his gun sales, and therefore he said it does not hurt to increase background checks nationally.
If guns are taken away from law-abiding citizens, they won’t have any way to protect themselves, Langendoerfer said.
He said in Nazi Germany, guns were taken away from people, and they could no longer defend themselves.
The December shooting of 20 children in Newtown, Conn., was a terrible act, Langendoerfer said. But he noted that children are much more likely to die in automobile accidents than get shot.
Also, he said places with higher crime rates tend to have the strictest gun control laws. Criminals will find ways to get guns illegally, he said.
Another part of the president’s plan is to step up efforts to improve mental health services.
Langendoerfer said he thinks this is a “no brainer” and that mental health records should be available, noting that they can be difficult to view now because of federal privacy laws.
Mental health funding has always been scarce, Langendoerfer added.
Newman is sponsoring a bill that would require all firearm sales and transfers to be processed through a federal firearms dealer, who would conduct a background check and create a record of each sale.
The bill mirrors a part of Obama’s gun control proposal that would require background checks on all gun sales.
The president’s proposal states that currently 40 percent of all gun sales are done through private sellers who are exempt from the background check requirement.
The president’s plan would not require background checks for transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting.
Newman, who said she has been working with Vice President Joe Biden on the gun control initiative, said 75 percent of NRA members also support background checks for all gun sales.
But as a Democrat in the Missouri House, Newman said she realizes she is in the minority and is “realistic” about the chances of her bill passing.
Background checks are effective in keeping guns out of the wrong people’s hands, she said, adding that law enforcement supports her bill.