Last month, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed a bill ThinkProgress labeled “America’s worst gun bill.” The fate of this bill now rests in the hands of the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, where Republicans need to pick off just a handful of the state house of representatives’ Democratic members to override this veto. And it looks like a few Democrats are eager to provide them with that margin.
The bill Nixon vetoed is unconstitutional. It purports to nullify a long list of federal gun laws stretching back to the Roosevelt Administration, and it imposes a gag rule on journalists in violation of the First Amendment. In addition to these unconstitutional provisions, the bill would also arm kindergarten teachers and make gun buyback programs virtually impossible.
At least two of the Democratic lawmakers learning toward voting to override Nixon’s veto openly admit that the bill is unconstitutional, but that they probably lack the courage to stand up for the Constitution. Democratic Rep. T.J. McKenna tells the Associated Press that “We love our guns and we love hunting. It’s not worth the fight for me to vote against it,” even though he agrees with Nixon that “the bill is completely unconstitutional, so the courts are going to have to throw it out.” McKenna’s views are echoed by Democratic Rep. Ed Schieffer, who says that “I personally believe that any higher court will probably rule this particular gun law unconstitutional . . . but I may end up still voting for the gun bill, because I don’t want to be on record for not supporting guns.” Schieffer says he’s unsure whether he will vote to overrule Nixon’s veto, but he already voted for the bill once.
Setting aside the question of whether knowingly voting for an unconstitutional bill is good politics, there is plenty of support for sensible gun regulation even in very conservative areas. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), for example, enjoys a commanding 10 point lead over her likely Republican opponent, even though Mitt Romney won her state by more than 17 points in 2012. Significantly, 45 percent of voters in her state said they are more likely to support Landrieu because of her vote in favor of background checks, while only 25 percent say they are less likely to support her.