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Missouri AG Warns Against Nullification of Federal Gun Laws

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- In a letter sent to Missouri Republicans on Tuesday, Koster writes House Bill 436 "cannot be casually viewed as merely symbolic."
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is speaking out against a bill that nullifies some federal gun control laws.

In a letter sent to Missouri Republicans on Tuesday, Koster writes House Bill 436 "cannot be casually viewed as merely symbolic."

Earlier this year, Gov. Nixon vetoed the bill, which would've declared federal gun laws unenforceable. It would have also allowed concealed weapons to be carried by designated personnel inside schools.

Koster, along with other top Democrats, worry the Republican-controlled legislature will overturn the veto during its session on Sept. 11.

He says the bill would prevent Missouri law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal law enforcement agencies and endanger public safety; he also says House Will 436 would allow criminals to sue police officers for enforcing the law.

The legislation would allow appointed "protection officers" to carry with a valid permit and registration through the state Department of Public Safety. Officers would also be required to take a training course.

It would also allow firearms less than 16 inches long to be openly carried even in areas that prohibit open-carry firearms. The bill also addresses privacy concerns; preventing people from publishing identifying information of gun owners and making it a class A misdemeanor for doing so.

In addition, the bill would lower the minimum age to obtain a concealed weapons permit from 21 to 19.

If overturned, legal hurdles could stand in the bill's way. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Kansas after similar legislation was passed in the state. 

"It's simply not within the state authority to decide which federal laws it will abide by and have citizens respect and those it won't," says Missouri State Associate Professor Kevin Pybas.

Pybas says the bill would be considered unconstitutional by the federal government.

"The law is going to be interpreted by a federal court, not state court. If someone is prosecuted for violation of the federal law, it's going to be in federal court, then who is being prosecuted will have to say the federal law is null and void. Missouri legislature said so and the judge is going to laugh at that."

"There are legitimate questions about the federal government's authority," adds Pybas. "It doesn't have unlimited authority in the regulation of firearms, but that's a different question than saying they have no authority to regulate in this subject matter."
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