If the Missouri legislature overrides Gov. Jay Nixon on what is arguably America’s worst gun bill, Attorney General Kris Koster doesn’t want any part in enforcing or defending it, he said in a letter to the Missouri House Speaker.
Some parts of the law, including nullification provisions that threaten to punish federal officials for enforcing a long list of their own laws are clearly unconstitutional, and Koster won’t defend those in court. But lawmakers already know that. There’s something worse about the bill than that, Koster warns: other provisions will likely survive court challenge, and the bill “cannot be casually viewed as merely symbolic.”
Those other provisions that will actually become the law, including prohibiting state officials from enforcing federal law or participating in joint state-federal efforts, are “flawed public policy” and create “an obvious risk to public safety,” Koster writes. He also questions whether lawmakers will like the consequences of authorizing “criminals” against whom gun laws have been enforced to sue police officers for activity that falls squarely within their job description.
Koster will “clearly and emphatically distance” his office from those provisions, he advises. He points out that these provisions are so broad, they could be read to preclude state officials even referring violations to federal authorities, or state officials’ involvement in offenses that are both state and criminal violations.
For example, “When a police officer in the City of St. Louis recovers a fully automatic machine gun from a drug dealer’s car, should the matter no longer be sent to the U.S. Attorney’s Office because the federal Gun Control Act of 1934 outlawed the weapon?” he asks.
The law also includes several other alarming provisions not mentioned by Koster, including arming school teachers, gagging journalists, and neutering gun buyback programs.
The first time around, the law passed the Republican-dominated Missouri legislature with veto-proof majorities, and legislators are considering now whether to override Nixon’s veto.