Last September, an almost comically expansive effort to nullify federal guns laws, arm school teachers, neuter gun buyback programs and roll back the First Amendment rights of journalists who report on gun owners barely escaped becoming law in the state of Missouri. After Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed the bill, its supporters fell exactly one vote shy of the amount needed to override Nixon’s veto in the state senate, with Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard (R) casting the deciding vote.
Now, however, Richard wants to revive the bulk of the legislation he helped block two months ago. The original bill purported to return gun policy in Missouri to the Hoover Administration by nullifying a long list of federal gun laws stretching back to “the federal Gun Control Act of 1934.” It not only permitted school districts to arm teachers and school administrators, it also gave those armed educators the power to detain people for up to four hours. It renders gun buyback programs largely useless by requiring guns purchased by such buybacks to “be offered for sale or trade to a licensed firearms dealer.” And it made it a crime for journalists to “publish the name, address, or other identifying information of any individual who owns a firearm,” or anyone who holds or applies for a firearm license.
Though Richard’s revised version of this bill, which remains in draft form, does not appear to be available online, news reports indicate that he will cut a few of the more bizarre provisions from the legislation. The new bill reportedly will not criminalize journalism. It also removes language that would have “made it a potential crime for state or local law enforcement officials to cooperate with federal officials on crimes involving firearms violations.” Teachers with guns will no longer be empowered to detain individuals under the new bill, although the bill still seeks to arm schoolteachers and administrators.
Nevertheless, Richard’s revised bill would still purport to nullify federal gun laws, thus rendering it unconstitutional. The Constitution provides that duly enacted federal laws “shall be the supreme law of the land . . . anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” So Missouri simply does not have the power to unilaterally invalidate federal laws, regardless of why it objects to the law. Nor should it. James Madison warned that nullification would “speedily put an end to the Union itself,” and he was right. America cannot function as a single nation if every state can declare any federal law optional.