DOJ tells court that Missouri gun law unconstitutional

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday backed a legal challenge to a new Missouri law that seeks to nullify federal gun regulations, arguing that the measure is unconstitutional and should be blocked.

The DOJ made its case to a Missouri state judge in a “statement of interest,” akin to an amicus brief, in support of a lawsuit brought in June by the city of St. Louis against Missouri.

In a 37-page filing, the DOJ argued that the new law, House Bill No. 85, illegally encroaches on federal regulatory power by making it illegal to enforce certain federal firearm laws and endangers public safety.

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“The United States supports a declaration that HB85 is unconstitutional and an injunction against its enforcement,” attorneys for the DOJ wrote.

The law, which is titled the Second Amendment Preservation Act, generally prohibits Missouri state and local law enforcement agencies from enforcing federal gun laws and provides for civil penalties of $50,000 for each violation.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) signed H.B. 85 into law in June, saying, “The purpose of the bill is to stand up to the federal government.”

The new law sparked an immediate legal challenge from St. Louis, which according to 2019 data from the FBI had the highest murder rate among major American cities.

The law has already contributed to some local law enforcement officers ending their participation in federal task forces, reinforcing the DOJ’s view that H.B. 85 undermines public safety.  

“In sum, HB85 has caused, and will continue to cause, significant harms to law enforcement within the State of Missouri,” the DOJ’s filing states.