The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Missouri to prevent the state from enforcing House Bill 85, known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act or SAPA. In a news release, the federal agency says SAPA makes enforcement of federal firearms laws more difficult, thereby impeding law enforcement efforts to combat violent crime.

State Rep. Jered Taylor (R-Nixa) speaks on the Missouri House floor in Jefferson City on May 11, 2021, as Rep. Don Rone (R-Portageville) looks on (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

Representative Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, is the sponsor of the bill. The legislation, which was signed into law in 2021, invalidates federal firearms laws. Under SAPA, law enforcement agencies can be fined up to $50,000 if they enforce federal gun regulations.

The federal government’s complaint seeks further clarification that state and local officials can lawfully participate in joint federal task forces, help in the investigation and enforcement of federal firearm crimes, and fully share information with the federal government without fear of the law’s penalties. The complaint alleges that the restrictions have hindered cooperation and other activities that aid federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts.

In addition, the complaint alleges the law is invalid under the Supremacy Clause, is preempted by federal law, and violates the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt

“This act impedes criminal law enforcement operations in Missouri,” says Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The United States will work to ensure that our state and local law enforcement partners are not penalized for doing their jobs to keep our communities safe.”

“A state cannot simply declare federal laws invalid,” says Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “This act makes enforcement of federal firearms laws difficult and strains the important law enforcement partnerships that help keep violent criminals off the street.”

Rep. Taylor provided this statement to Missourinet:

“I think the DOJ realized how weak their arguments in front of the Missouri Supreme Court were and they know they were going to lose. As I’ve said all along, we expected that there would be a federal lawsuit filed and we would likely end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. I am just as confident today as I was last year that we drafted this bill in a constitutional manner and we will prevail,” says Taylor. “The DOJ is mad that Missouri refuses to participate in the Biden Administrations tyrannical gun control policies and I’m proud to have led the fight for Missouri gun owners. I encourage other Republican controlled states to pass similar legislation and fight back against federal overreach.”

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, quickly fired back.

Sen. John Rizzo (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“After their disastrous arguments in the Missouri Supreme Court last week, the Biden Department of Justice has now filed yet another partisan lawsuit that seeks to attack Missourians’ Second Amendment rights. Unfortunately, the Biden DOJ has used this lawsuit as a pretext for them to pull the plug on our successful and innovative federal-state crime fighting partnership, the Safer Streets Initiative. Since I launched the Safer Streets Initiative in 2019, we’ve filed over 650 charges against nearly 390 defendants with a conviction rate of roughly 98%. My Office has fought to continue the initiative, but this initiative has been suspended solely because of the Biden Administration’s actions. Time and again, the Biden Administration has put partisan politics ahead of public safety. Make no mistake, the law is on our side in this case, and I intend to beat the Biden Administration in court once again,” says Schmitt.

Teresa Moore, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, released the following statement:

“Some of the public response and media coverage of the civil complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the state of Missouri includes inaccurate statements that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has withdrawn from the Safer Streets Initiative,” she says. “I cannot comment upon the pending litigation before the court, however, I am obliged to set the record straight on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri in regards to our ongoing involvement with the Safer Streets Initiative. Three assistant attorneys general from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office are currently cross-designated to prosecute federal crimes in the Western District of Missouri. As part of the Safer Streets Initiative, they are working in my office to prosecute dozens of active federal cases against defendants charged with illegally possessing firearms and illegal drug trafficking. I remain committed to working alongside state and local law enforcement partners. This has been an effective strategy, and an efficient use of resources, to combat violent crime.”

State Senator John Rizzo, D-Independence, filed a bill this session that would repeal provisions he says prevents law enforcement from working with federal agencies on violent weapons crimes. That measure is Senate Bill 1033.

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