Missouri once had a reputation for lawlessness. The state was part of the guerrilla war being waged in Bloody Kansas between Free Staters and pro-slavery forces. During the Civil War, gangs led by men such as William Quantrill, Bloody Bill Anderson, and Cole Younger, made reputations as ruthless murderers on behalf of the Southern cause, and they were not alone, as others plundered and murdered for the Union.
Far from being the “Show Me State” – unless it was to show a gun – in the 1870s Missouri earned a reputation as the “robber state” thanks to new bands of outlaws like that of Frank and Jesse James. During the Prohibition-generated gangster era, the Ozarks became a refuge for machine gun-toating outlaws like Bonnie and Clyde.
If the Republican-dominated legislature has its way, Missouri residents will not only be able to own machine guns – federally regulated since the gangster era – but federal agents would be arrested if they tried to do anything about it.
House Bill 436, the so-called Second Amendment Preservation Act, which passed the Senate 26-6 and the House 116-38, states,
(1) All federal acts, laws, orders, rules, and regulations, whether past, present, or future, which infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 23 of the Missouri Constitution shall be invalid in this state, shall not be recognized by this state, shall be specifically rejected by this state, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in this state.
(2) Such federal acts, laws, orders, rules, and regulations include, but are not limited to:
(a) The provisions of the federal Gun Control Act of 1934;
(b) The provisions of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968;
(c) Any tax, levy, fee, or stamp imposed on firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition not common to all other goods and services which could have a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;
(d) Any registering or tracking of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition which could have a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;
(e) Any registering or tracking of the owners of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition which could have a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;
(f) Any act forbidding the possession, ownership, or use or transfer of any type of firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition by law-abiding citizens; and
(g) Any act ordering the confiscation of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition from law-abiding citizens.
It would also prohibit background checks and publication of any information about a gun-owner.
That there are serious problems with this thinking is recognized even by Second Amendment-friendly Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, who has vetoed the legislation, saying that is in violation of the Supremacy Clause, which gives federal laws precedence over state laws.
This unnecessary and unconstitutional attempt to nullify federal laws would have violated Missourians’ First Amendment right to free speech – while doing nothing to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners. In fact, under this bill, newspaper editors around the state that annually publish photos of proud young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer could be charged with a crime.
It is also opposed by St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, who points out that, “(We are) basically saying to criminals, ‘OK criminals, it’s OK to come to Missouri. We won’t prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.'”
Federal agents, on the other hand, would be persecuted to the fullest extent of the law – for trying to uphold federal law.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence explains the reasons the federal government came down on the ownership of machine guns:
The National Firearms Act of 1934 (“NFA”) imposes a tax on the making and transfer of machine guns and certain other weapons, as well as a special occupational tax on persons and entities engaged in the business of importing, manufacturing and dealing in those weapons. (The NFA distinguishes between “making” a weapon, and “manufacturing” a weapon. Only a registered NFA manufacturer can “manufacture” a machine gun; other persons who construct machine guns are “making” them, according to the NFA. (26 U.S.C. § 5845(i); 27 C.F.R. § 479.11) ) As detailed below, the law also requires the registration of all machine guns.
While the NFA was enacted by Congress as an exercise of its authority to tax, the underlying purpose of the law was to curtail, if not prohibit, transactions in machine guns and certain other weapons. (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Dept. of Justice, National Firearms Act Handbook 9-15, June 2007) Congress found these firearms pose a significant crime problem because of their frequent use in crime, and the $200 making and transfer taxes were considered quite severe at the time and adequate to discourage or eliminate transfers in these firearms. The $200 tax has not changed since 1934.
Probably one of the most offensive consequences of federal law is that “Any machine gun involved in a violation of the NFA is subject to seizure and forfeiture. Forfeited machine guns cannot be sold at public sale, but may be destroyed or transferred within the federal government, or to a state or local government.”
At the moment, Missouri is known for places like Branson, where people go to have fun. If Republicans have their way, Missouri will again become a refuge for criminals and be known once more as the “robber state.” Who then will care to risk their lives to travel to Branson?
Today, the Missouri legislature will vote, in essence, to secede from the Union, as they meet to override Gov. Nixon’s veto. The bill’s proponents raise all sorts of bizarre defenses of the bill, claiming it does not add guns to the street, and CNN quotes one gun owner as saying, “There are people saying this is the same as seceding from the Union. Missouri did not secede from the Union in 1862, and it does not do so by passing this law.”
Missouri may not have seceded but it supplied soldiers to both the Union and Confederate armies just as it provided men to both the pro- and anti-slavery movements, and the guns wielded by lawless men then and through the Civil War and beyond, murdered men, women, and children without remorse. That is not a reputation any state should aspire to.