Police chiefs statewide support suit against new Missouri gun law – St. Louis Post-Dispatch


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Police chiefs statewide support suit against new Missouri gun law

Police chiefs from around the St. Louis area and the state are supporting a new lawsuit seeking to clarify a controversial Missouri gun law.

In affidavits filed in court and in legal briefs filed by nearly 60 police chiefs belonging to either the St. Louis Area Police Chiefs Association or the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, police officials raise questions about Missouri’s new “Second Amendment Preservation Act.”

The chiefs say, “some of the wording and structure of SAPA has inadvertently caused confusion and raised a number of questions that hinder law enforcement’s ability to defend and protect Missouri citizens.”

The move follows multiple failed attempts by police, prosecutors and federal law enforcement officials to get the Missouri Legislature to make changes to the law.

One of the co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, said Tuesday that he had not yet seen the lawsuit and did not know exactly what the police chiefs were seeking.

Taylor said that some attorneys looking at the law have agreed with his interpretation, and others have disagreed.

State Rep. Jared Taylor

State Rep. Jared Taylor, R-Nixa

Asked about the potential for changes in the Legislature, Taylor said, “I don’t think there need to be any changes,” adding that he believes the bill was written in a way that both protects the Second Amendment and allows law enforcement to do their job.

In a statement provided in response to questions from the Post-Dispatch Monday, the two associations stressed that the intent was not to overturn the law but to “ensure that law enforcement return to operating and functioning as it always has. The vague language contained within the law has caused confusion and solicited varying legal opinions which has resulted in unintended operational consequences.”

The statement says police officials believe the law intended to protect the Second Amendment and gun owners, “without encroaching on federal partnerships within law enforcement, imposing hiring restrictions on law enforcement and or restricting law enforcement from protecting gun owners when their firearms are stolen.”

The city of Arnold filed underlying lawsuit last week in Jefferson County Circuit Court. Both police associations are seeking a judge’s permission to file a friend of the court brief supporting the suit.

Police have been raising concerns since the law was proposed.

Bob Sweeney, one of the lawyers who filed the suit, said the suit came out of conversations he was having with the Arnold chief, Robert Shockey, that started at that time about problems with the proposal.

“There seemed to be the possibility that the Missouri Legislature would understand what they were passing all the way up to the end and then they didn’t,” Sweeney said.

Robert Shockey

Robert Shockey

Shockey is the executive director of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association.

Sweeney said the law is vague and ambiguous and contradicts other statutes.

“I’m not challenging the constitutionality or viability of the legislation. I’m asking the court to explain what it means and which statutes we should follow,” he said.

Sweeney said he believes that legislators are afraid to fix the law for fear of being seen as anti-gun.

“I don’t understand how they can’t understand this,” he said.

Sweeney also said that one self-insurance pool said they would not cover lawsuits filed against police under the law, which allows private citizens to sue over alleged violations of their Second Amendment rights, presenting a “grave risk to local governments.”

Affidavits filed by chiefs of 15 local police departments in St. Louis and St. Charles counties raise a series of questions, including whether SAPA only applies to new federal laws; whether police can seize firearms and other items in situations involving domestic violence, suicide or mental health issues; and whether police can enter information about guns, stolen or otherwise, into state or national databases.

They also ask whether police can participate in federal task forces or help federal law enforcement or federal prosecutors with a case involving “a drug dealer who has illegal guns which are seized and there are federal charges regarding both guns and drugs?”

The suit also asks whether police can hire veterans, referring to a section of the law that the chiefs say “appears to restrict the recruitment, hiring and retention of law enforcement officers who are currently or formerly employed by or affiliated with the federal government, including military personnel and veterans.”

Taylor has previously said that local and state authorities could still provide aid in investigations of federal felony gun crimes similar to Missouri state crimes.

In August, a judge in Cole County rejected a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the law filed by St. Louis city and county and Kansas City officials. The case has been appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.

Federal officials have also heavily criticized what they say is the law’s effect on law enforcement, saying in a friend of the court brief in that lawsuit that the law “already seriously impaired the federal government’s ability to combat violent crime in Missouri.”

They said dozens of law enforcement agencies, including the Missouri Highway Patrol, have withdrawn from law enforcement partnerships and are no longer sharing information with the “federal counterparts.”

Caleb Rowden

Caleb Rowden

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, has said a Democratic proposal to fix the law could be a “bit of a tough lift” for Republicans in an election year.

After saying in November that “career politicians and the RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only) who supported the law had defunded police, former Gov. Eric Greitens, who is among the Republicans running for the U.S. Senate, quickly reversed himself amid criticism.

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