SPRINGFIELD — One of two major pieces of state legislation regarding gun laws have passed the House, but some law enforcement officers still have concerns about it.
Republican Lawmakers from the Ozarks have focused this session on what they call the “Second Amendment Preservation Act” through two bills: Senate Bill 39 and House Bill 85.
The original text for both bills is almost identical. The bills protect Missourians from any strict gun control rules that might come down from the Biden Administration.
These Republican-backed bills essentially don’t allow police to enforce the laws related to guns that could come down from the federal government if they pass.
Sheriff Jim Arnott, a major supporter of the 2nd amendment, agrees with the intent but says he sees an issue with language in those bills that could hamper the ability to do things when they investigate suspects.
Arnott says his deputies often operate under what is called “qualified immunity.” An example of that is when a deputy may be investigating a suspect, and may need to take possession of someone’s weapon as part of that investigation if that person was involved in a crime.
Arnott explains this is intended in good faith as part of an officers job, not to take firearms from citizens for no reason.
If that person was found to have done nothing wrong, then deputies will give that firearm back to the person.
The original text of these bills put law enforcement officers in a tough spot.
“If they have that gun, you take it. You either test it for ballistics, or whatever (is required),” Arnott says. “That bill stripped the officer of those rights.”
In fact, the language left individual officers up to lawsuits of $50,000 or more. The sponsor of HB85, Jered Taylor (R-Nixa), says their bill passed the House Thursday after a small amendment was made to address those concerns.
“That amendment takes it off of the officer and places the penalty on the departments. We’re just saying as a state we’re not going to enforce federal law when it comes to our second amendment rights,” says Taylor.
Those changes still leave departments at risk of being sued if they do enforce any type of federal gun control laws. Arnott says more work still needs to be done.
“There was a couple of progressions that were good, but there are still problematic areas that we just need to fix,” says Arnott.
Arnott is working with legislators on a solution that he hopes will benefit Missourians and protect law enforcement in certain scenarios.
Democratic Representative Betsy Fogle (D-Springfield) says the discrepancy it creates between State and Federal law is a problem. She voted against it Thursday.
“I’m a believer in the Second Amendment. I think that’s putting an undue burden on our law enforcement. 2020 was the deadliest year in our state in terms of gun violence, and I think that is a very important conversation that we need to start having in the legislature,” says Fogle.
As for SB39, it should go to vote soon. HB85, which was passed Thursday, now goes over the Senate.