Several police departments and organizations around Missouri are speaking out against a bill that would bar enforcement of federal gun laws if they interfere with a Missourian's Second Amendment rights.
St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch says House Bill 436 would in effect end cooperation between local and federal law enforcement agencies. He cites a recent traffic stop where his officers apprehended two armed men wanted for different crimes.
"Typically we would take that case to the federal authorities, because (the criminals would) get a lot more serious prison time than you would on a state charge," Fitch said. "If this law is passed, it basically takes away the opportunity for us to do that."
Fitch sent a letter to House Speaker Tim Jones (R, Eureka) asking that the Governor's veto not be overturned. Fitch also asked that if they insist on pursuing passage that they wait until next year's session and that they remove language that could result in increased lawsuits against police officers. "Your local law enforcement agencies are depending on you to help us keep our communities safe," Fitch wrote.
So far, Jones has not responded to Fitch's letter.
In addition, St. Louis city Police Chief Sam Dotson, Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte, and Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum co-wrote an op-ed piece strongly opposing House Bill 436. It reads, in part:
As police officials we are concerned about this legislation because it would make it a state crime for our federal partners at the FBI, ATF, and other agencies to do their job of enforcing federal gun laws in Missouri. The prospect of Missouri officials trying to arrest federal agents is unimaginable, but that is what House Bill 436 would allow.
House Bill 436 would declare any federal gun control law that infringes on a Missouri citizen's Second Amendment rights to be "null and void" in the Show-Me State. It would also make it a misdemeanor for a federal officer to try and enforce a federal gun control law in Missouri if that law conflicts with HB436. The bill's backers say it's needed to protect Missouri citizens from an overreaching federal government. State Representative Doug Funderburk (R, St. Charles), the sponsor, summed up their sentiments during floor debates back in April, just before the Missouri House passed it the first time: "I think this bill removes the noose the federal government has been gradually putting around the necks of its citizens and pulling it tighter, and tighter, and tighter."
Kevin Ahlbrand, President of the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, says the proposed law would result in the disbanding of joint local-federal task forces around the state.
"These task forces are extremely valuable," Ahlbrand said. "If there were a terrorist attack, the Boston bombing being one – that was solved with a joint local-federal task force…Oklahoma City, same thing…that (type of task force) would be prohibited under this law."
Ahlbrand says one of his biggest concerns is that a federal judge could declare most of House Bill 436 unconstitutional but leave in place the ban on joint task forces.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport
Copyright 2013 KWMU-FM. To see more, visit http://www.stlpublicradio.org.