A man waves and American flag as he walks outside the Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City, Mo., on Jan. 20, 2021. (Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that a Missouri law that penalized police officers for enforcing federal gun laws was unconstitutional. The law, known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA), was signed into law by Missouri Governor Mike Parson in June 2021. It declared invalid all federal laws infringing on the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Missouri Constitution. The act defined infringements as certain taxes, certain registration and tracking laws, certain prohibitions on the possession, ownership, use, or transfer of a specific type of firearm, and confiscation orders.

The Biden administration Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against the law last year, alleging that it was undermining federal drug and weapons investigators by placing heavy fines of up to $50,000 on police departments if they “infringed” on Missourians’ Second Amendment rights by following any federal laws. In court documents, the DOJ claimed that the law had affected law enforcement operations through withdrawals from and/or limitations on cooperation in joint federal-state task forces, restrictions on sharing information, confusion about the validity of federal law in light of SAPA, and discrimination against federal employees and those deputized for federal law enforcement who lawfully enforce federal law.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Wimes, an Obama appointee, ruled that federal law cannot be nullified by any state law and that Missouri legislators are aware of that. In his ruling, Wimes stated that SAPA’s practical effects are counterintuitive to its stated purpose. While purporting to protect citizens, SAPA exposes citizens to greater harm by interfering with the federal government’s ability to enforce lawfully enacted firearms regulations designed by Congress for the purpose of protecting citizens within the limits of the Constitution. Wimes added that state and local law enforcement officials in the state may join federal task forces, assist in the investigation and enforcement of federal firearm crimes, and fully share information with the federal government without fear of penalty.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey said in a statement on social media that he plans to appeal the court’s ruling at the Eighth Circuit Court and expects a “better result” there. Bailey added that as attorney general, he will protect the Constitution, which includes defending Missourians’ fundamental right to bear arms. If the state legislature wants to expand upon the foundational rights codified in the Second Amendment, they have the authority to do that. But SAPA is also about the Tenth Amendment. It’s about federalism and individual liberty, so we will be appealing the court’s ruling.

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