By: José Niño
On March 7, 2023, U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes issued a ruling declaring that Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA) is unconstitutional.
This law, which was passed on June 14, 2021, gave citizens the power to file lawsuits against Missouri law enforcement if they believed the federal government infringed on their Second Amendment rights. Citizens can file suit for up to $50,000 if they believe that the enforcement of federal gun control laws infringes upon their right to bear arms.
Wimes argued that Missouri’s SAPA violated the federal supremacy standard, which states that federal law supersedes state law.
“SAPA exposes citizens to greater harm by interfering with the Federal Government’s ability to enforce lawfully enacted firearm regulations designed by Congress for the purpose of protecting citizens with the limits of the Constitution,” Wimes stated in his 24-page opinion.
The United States Justice Department originally filed the lawsuit in 2022 to prevent Missouri from enforcing SAPA. The Justice Department argued that SAPA impeded cooperation between federal, state, and local law enforcement.
In response to Wimes’ decision, Missouri’s current Attorney General Andrew Bailey announced that his office has plans to appeal the decision. Bailey indicated that he’s willing to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court.
“The Second Amendment is what makes the rest of the amendments possible. If the state legislature wants to expand upon the foundational rights codified in the Second Amendment, they have the authority to do that,” Bailey declared in a statement. “But SAPA is also about the Tenth Amendment (that leaves some powers to the states). It’s about federalism and individual liberty.”
The office of Missouri Governor Mike Parson also voiced its support for the attorney general’s office’s plan to appeal this ruling.
While this federal court ruling was a disappointment for Missouri gun owners, the fight is far from over. Gun owners should support AG Bailey’s efforts to appeal this decision. For one, the federal government has no right to strike down the law of a state, especially one that is trying to restore gun rights.
The nullification of federal gun control is one of the remedies states can take to push back against a federal government that has grown derelict in its governing functions. Nullification is as American as apple pie.
For example, Founding Fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison wrote the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions in opposition to the Sedition Act of 1798, which effectively criminalized citizens’ criticism of government officials. These resolutions established the constitutional and philosophical justifications for the nullification of this unconstitutional law at the time.
The Sedition Act eventually expired on March 3, 1801, once Thomas Jefferson assumed the presidency. Nullification would be used by northern states to resist the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that allowed the federal government to facilitate the apprehension of runaway slaves and return them to their owners. Countless northern free states did not comply with this unconstitutional law.
Second Amendment advocates should channel this same spirit of 19th century nullification of unconstitutional laws with regards to federal gun control in the present. When elected officials refuse to pass legislation that repeals Second Amendment infringements, the states must rise up by nullifying these blatantly unconstitutional acts.