The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

July 2, 2013

Our View: Flawed bill

— A bill that’s sitting on Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk awaiting his signature needs a rewrite. House Bill 436 nullifies federal gun laws and would likely set up a legal showdown between the state and the feds.

But a portion of this bill has the potential consequences of creating a new class of lawbreakers. Read the language, and we think you will quickly see the rub:

“No person or entity shall publish the name, address, or other identifying information of any individual who owns a firearm or who is an applicant for or holder of any license, certificate, permit, or endorsement which allows such individual to own, acquire, possess, or carry a firearm.

“2. For purposes of this section, ‘publish’ means to issue information or material in printed or electronic form for distribution or sale to the public.

“3. Any person or entity who violates the provisions of this section by publishing identifying information protected under this section is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.”

Certainly that would make it difficult for any newspaper to publish a story about a crime in which a gun had been fired or even a feature about hunting. It also leaves in limbo how an auctioneer might post an auction bill in which guns are part of the sale. And for that matter, how about law enforcement officers?

Beyond that, the law flies in the face of the Missouri Constitution, which reads: “In order to assert our rights, acknowledge our duties, and proclaim the principles on which our government is founded, we declare: That no law shall be passed impairing the freedom of speech, no matter by what means communicated: that every person shall be free to say, write or publish, or otherwise communicate whatever he will on any subject, being responsible for all abuses of that liberty.”

The bill itself will no doubt be challenged on a number of levels if it becomes law. But this flaw should have been caught long before the bill was passed.

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