February 6, 2016

Two gun rights proposals heard in House committee

Representative Casey Guernsey (left) and Representative Chrissy Sommer have presented their gun rights legislation in a House Committee.

Representative Casey Guernsey (left) and Representative Chrissy Sommer have presented their gun rights legislation in a House Committee.

The House Committee on General Laws has held hearings on two bills whose sponsors say they are needed to protect the gun rights of Missourians.

Representative Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany) has offered HB 170 that would make it a class “D” felony to enforce or try to enforce any gun laws in connection to a gun, gun accessory or ammunition owned or made in Missouri. It would also allow a Missourian accused of violating federal law related to those items to ask for the defense of the Attorney General in court.

It also would make unenforceable in Missouri any federal laws or regulations passed after January 1, 2013 that ban or restrict ownership of semi-automatic guns or their magazines, or requires guns or accessories to be registered.

Guernsey tells the Committee the rights of Missourians to keep and bear arms must be defended.

“I think it’s incumbent upon us as legislators … the Constitution guarantees us, as legislators, the ability to protect Missouri citizens when the federal government overreaches its bounds … its delegated authority that it’s given, and I think that’s exactly what this bill does.”

Democrats on the committee raised questions about whether Missouri law enforcement officers would have to arrest federal agents enforcing federal gun laws, under Guernsey’s proposal.  They say the legislation will likely end up in the courts if it is passed.

Representative Chrissy Sommer’s (R-St. Charles) bill, HB 162, would create what she calls the “Missouri Firearms Freedom Act.” It would make guns, ammunition and gun accessories made in Missouri exempt from federal laws and regulations, including registration, under Congress’ authority to regulate interstate commerce.

Sommer says similar legislation has been filed in several other states and is the subject of a lawsuit in Montana that has been stalled for more than a year.

“Attorney Generals in Montana, Utah, Alabama, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wyoming and West Virginia have also filed briefs in support of this lawsuit which was started by gun advocates.”

Ron Calzone, one of the directors of state sovereignty organization Missouri First, testified in favor of Sommer’s bill. He told lawmakers it could protect products made by at least one company in Missouri, CMMG in Fayette, a manufacturer that specializes in AR-15s.

“It’s what some people are calling ‘assault rifles.’ I asked the owner of that company … can you build your AR-15s with just Missouri components, and he said, ‘Yes.'”

Representative Mike Colona inquires a witness about Rep. Guernsey's bill.

Representative Mike Colona inquires a witness about Rep. Guernsey’s bill.

Representative Mike Colona (D-St. Louis) asked whether either proposal could jeopardize federal funding that comes to Missouri to support law enforcement programs.

“My question is, if we draw the line in the sand … if that also comes with withholding federal funds that do things like keep guns off the streets, is it worth it?”

Representative John McCaherty (R-High Ridge) offered his answer to Colona’s question.

“What if it was our freedom of speech, and they were taking that away? Would it be worth giving up federal dollars to maintain our freedom of speech? I look at this … this is a rights issue, and is it worth federal dollars? I’d have to say yeah.”

No one testified in opposition to either proposal, and neither was voted on.