Our View

We urge state lawmakers to consider carefully the consequences of the Second Amendment Preservation Act as those consequences were outlined recently by state Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin.

We have always found Roberts, a former Joplin police chief who later was named director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, to be an insightful, thoughtful lawmaker, and if he warns us about a problem with legislation — particularly in his wheelhouse — we would be wise to listen.

Under the bill, any federal gun law or act that infringes on Missouri residents’ Second Amendment rights could not be enforced by local, county or state law officers.

Roberts told a group Friday during an Eggs and Issues forum that he was concerned about sanctions contained in the bill, which the House passed recently.

Originally, it included sanctions against police officers themselves — Roberts said it took away the officers’ employment, it took away their police license for the rest of their life, it took away what limited qualified immunity they had and made no provisions for how they would defend themselves.

“It’s not like they are overpaid anyway, but they would have had to pay for that defense out of their own pocket,” Roberts said at the forum.

The bill has been modified so that it instead allows sanctions against officers’ employers — police departments, for example. The fine could be up to $50,000.

“The best way to get the department’s attention, and to make sure that they follow this law to protect our citizens’ Second Amendment rights, is to hit them in the pocketbook,” said state Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Republic, sponsor of the House bill, according to the Columbia Missourian. “Hit them where it hurts. Make them think twice.”

Roberts also said he was concerned about the “chilling effect” the bill would have on cooperation between local, state and federal law enforcement officers.

“There are times when we need the feds as much as they need us,” he told us.

He said at the forum: “And if a federal agent came to me and said I need your help on this particular thing, and I declined, why then would I expect them to say yes when I need their help? More importantly, if that person then went forward and did what they did and got hurt, I have to live with my conscience.”

He said another consequence of the legislation is that it creates an entirely new category of civil action targeting police officers.

Roberts isn’t the only one raising questions. Greene County Sheriff Bob Arnott said he and other sheriffs across the state also are concerned about the impact this legislation will have. He then noted that his department routinely partners with federal agencies to investigate local crimes that also violate federal laws because it’s better for the community.

“Convictions in federal court generally yield much longer sentences, keeping the most dangerous felons who threaten our communities off the streets for longer periods of time,” he said.

Voting no on this is not a vote against the Second Amendment. Valid questions are being raised about the consequences of this legislation; let’s reconsider the damage it could do.

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