I regularly receive emails and calls from constituents encouraging me to continue my support of our Second Amendment rights. More recently, I’m being asked to override the governor’s veto of House Bill 436. House Bill 436 establishes the Second Amendment Preservation Act, which seeks to nullify any federal gun law that would restrict Missouri citizens from keeping or bearing arms. This legislation would reject all federal acts that infringe on Missourians’ rights under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The bill specifies that all past, present, or future federal acts, laws, orders, rules, or regulations that would take this right from our citizens will not be recognized by the state of Missouri. Furthermore, HB 436 would make it a misdemeanor for a federal officer to try to enforce any federal gun control laws that conflict with a Missourian’s right to keep and bear arms within the state.
Additionally, HB 436 would allow K-12 public school districts to choose whether to hire an armed school security officer. This would be a local decision made by the school board and school administrators. HB 436 would also lower the age for conceal-carry holders from 21 to age 19. Supporters of the bill believe it will make Missouri safer while protecting our state from federal overreach. This bill is Missouri’s answer to the ongoing national debate between state and federal governments concerning passage of federal gun control laws. It is feared that such laws could regulate, limit, or even restrict our Second Amendment rights.
Since the beginning of our nation, there has been tension between the states and the federal government. Early in our history, the Continental Congress established a cooperative of thirteen sovereign states. With no chief executive or court system, these states were to be pre-eminent. However, the next ten years convinced the founding fathers that avoiding the tyranny of a national government was one thing, but having a federal government that could not impose taxes, regulate trade, enforce laws, or even compel the individual states to honor their national obligations was unworkable. This led to our present Constitution with a centralized federal government, but it did not resolve all the differences between state and federal relationships. Amendments were periodically added as needed.
The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights. These amendments are the framework of our individual freedoms and personal liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. The ideas for these amendments were first introduced by James Madison in a series of legislative articles in which he proposed basic rights for citizens, rights that included the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, the freedom to peaceably assemble, and the freedom to keep and bear arms. As his ideas gained in popularity, they were proposed as amendments to the Constitution by the first Congress of the United States. After passing the Congress, they were then sent to the thirteen original states for ratification. On December 15, 1791, they officially became part of the United States Constitution.
Today we still experience tensions in regard to state sovereignty. In his veto of HB 436, Governor Jay Nixon stated that his main reason for the veto was the United States Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. This Clause is found in Article 6 of the Constitution and basically states that a state law cannot nullify a federal law. Governor Nixon claims that HB 436 would be unconstitutional, but there are differences of opinion in the interpretation of the Clause.
Some scholars of the Constitution believe the Supremacy Clause only takes effect if there are two laws—one a state law, the other a federal law— that claim jurisdiction over the same things or when it would become impossible for an individual to obey both laws. In this case, the federal law will always trump the state law. There is no disagreement between either the state constitution or the federal constitution, as both give citizens the right to keep and to bear arms.
Throughout the history of our nation, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that states did not have the power to nullify federal law, and American history is full of examples where federal law has pre-empted state laws. Some of the most recent examples are the Affordable Care Act, No Child Left Behind, and the legalization of marijuana by some states. HB 436 is good legislation, and the governor’s veto may be overridden. Its fate, though, will be decided in the courts. Whatever the outcome, it will send a message to the federal government that Missourians want our Second Amendment rights to be protected.
President James Madison stated it plainly when he said: “To disarm the people…that is the best and most efficient way to enslave them.”