Philip Dupuis, police chief of O’Fallon, said in a statement to news outlets that he understood the motivation behind the bill and described himself as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.
“The problem with this statute is the poorly worded language that removes sovereign immunity and appears to allow law enforcement agencies and individual police officers to be sued for even good faith justified seizures of firearms in emergency circumstances,” Dupuis said.
“Every police department in the country seizes weapons during arrests for criminal activity or when they feel it is immediately necessary to protect someone who may be suicidal or threatening to harm others. This statute allows that officer to be sued if the individual believes that seizure ‘infringed upon their second amendment rights.’ This vague language will create a flood of weaponized litigation that will chill the legitimate peace keeping duties of police. This will decrease public safety and increase frivolous lawsuits designed to harass and penalize good hard working law enforcement agencies.”
The longtime law enforcement member said he wasn’t willing to “risk my family’s financial future on a poorly written piece of legislation that opens me and my fellow officers up to being sued even when they act lawfully and appropriately.”
O’Fallon declined to comment while the city’s police department said it was “saddened to hear” of the resignation.
“He has helped our department in many ways!” it said in a social media post.
The law in question, House Bill 85, or the Second Amendment Preservation Act, was passed by the state legislature before being signed by Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, this month.
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The law declares, in part, that “it must be the duty of the courts and law enforcement agencies to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms and that no person, including a public officer or state employee of this state or any political subdivision of this state, can have authority to enforce or attempt to enforce any federal laws, orders, or rules infringing on the right to keep and bear arms.”
Any person who “knowingly acts under the color of any federal or state law to deprive a Missouri citizen of the rights or privileges ensured by the federal and state constitutions to keep and bear arms” is liable for monetary damages of $50,000 per occurrence, as well as injunctive relief and attorney fees.
Parson in a statement after signing the bill said it “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.”
The Department of Justice told state officials in a letter that the law was outweighed by the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. Parson and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt responded by saying Missouri was “not attempting to nullify federal law” but was “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.”