Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt have sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) defending their state’s recent gun rights legislation while denouncing what the pair called “potential federal overreach and encroachment on Missourians’ Second Amendment rights.”
Parson signed a bill into law last week that declares some federal gun control laws invalid, while prohibiting state and local cooperation with enforcement of regulations “that infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment.”
The Republican governor said in a press release that the legislation “draws a line in the sand and demonstrates our commitment to reject any attempt by the federal government to circumvent the fundamental right Missourians have to keep and bear arms to protect themselves and their property.”
But the move prompted a response from the Biden administration, with the DOJ writing in a June 16 letter obtained by The Associated Press that the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause outweighs the bill Parson signed into law, known as HB 85 or the Second Amendment Preservation Act.
The Supremacy Clause establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority constitutes the “supreme Law of the Land,” and thus takes priority over any conflicting state laws. Federal statutes and treaties, however, are only supreme if they do not contravene the Constitution.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton said in the letter that Missouri’s new law threatens to disrupt the working relationship between federal and local authorities, arguing that it “conflicts with federal firearms laws and regulation.”
Boynton called on Parson and Schmitt to clarify the law and how it would work, requesting a response by Friday.
In their June 17 response to Boynton (pdf), Parson and Schmitt wrote, “Your letter purporting to ask for clarification of this important legislation, which was purposefully leaked to the news media, is riddled with a misunderstanding of the law and falsehoods.”
“We will not stand by while the federal government tries to tell Missourians how to live our lives. Missouri is not attempting to nullify federal law,” they wrote. “Instead, Missouri is defending its people from federal government overreach by prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from being used by the federal government to infringe Missourians’ right to keep and bear arms.”
Parson and Schmitt argued in their letter that, under the Second and Tenth Amendments, the right to bear arms is inalienable and, according to a joint statement issued by the two officials, “Missouri has the right to refuse to enforce unconstitutional infringements by the federal government.”
“We will fight tooth and nail to defend the right to keep and bear arms … and we will not tolerate any attempt by the federal government to deprive Missourians of this critical civil right,” Parson and Schmitt wrote.