Much is being made of the fact that Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto pen is getting a workout.
The Democratic governor has vetoed 23 bills so far this year, including a whopping 17 just last week.
Political observers are saying Nixon has found some bravado and is flexing his muscles in his second term.
Perhaps, but upon closer inspection some of the bills he vetoed were so seriously flawed and patently unconstitutional that vetoing them isn’t evidence of anything but common sense. Take House Bill 436 which Nixon vetoed Friday for example. The bill would have made it a crime for federal agents to enforce federal gun laws in Missouri and would make it a crime for anyone to publish the name or other information of gun owners in Missouri.
In a written statement announcing the veto, Nixon pointed out that the bill violated the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution and Missouri’s First Amendment right to free speech.
The law is also in direct conflict with the Missouri Constitution, which reads:
“In order to assert our rights, acknowledge our duties, and proclaim the principles on which our government is founded, we declare: That no law shall be passed impairing the freedom of speech, no matter by what means communicated: that every person shall be free to say, write or publish, or otherwise communicate whatever he will on any subject, being responsible for all abuses of that liberty.”
The broadly worded bill also would have radically altered journalism in Missouri. If it had become law, it would be a crime for a newspaper to publish a story about a crime that involved guns or even a feature story about hunting.
Nixon pointed out that under the bill, newspaper editors around the state who annually publish photos of young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer could be charged with a crime.
The language of the bill raises other perplexing scenarios. Would it be a crime for an auctioneer to post an auction bill in which guns are part of the sale? Would police or court officials be guilty of a crime if they used the name of a gun owner in a legal document?
The bill was not only unconstitutional, it was impractical and unworkable. There is no question it would have been challenged in court had it become law and overturned. Yet it passed both chambers of the legislature by wide margins.
What does that say about our legislators? What about the legislators who are attorneys — shouldn’t they know better? Are we to believe that they were all that unfamiliar with the basic tenants of the Constitution?
Hardly. The legislators aren’t stupid, they are politicians pandering to constituents who overwhelmingly favor gun rights.
House Bill 436 is one of many provocative bills that are designed to send a message, raise funds and provoke a veto which can be used later against the governor in a future election.
Vetoing this misguided bill wasn’t a bold initiative, it was a reaffirmation of constitutional principles and common sense.