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Biden admin sues Missouri over law blocking federal gun control

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice press conference, June 25, 2021. (Department of Justice/Released)
February 17, 2022

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice sued the State of Missouri over a new law barring local police from enforcing federal gun laws.

Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act, H.B. 85, which was signed into law late last year, declares many federal gun regulations “invalid,” including statutes covering weapons registration and tracking. Local law enforcement are banned from enforcing federal gun laws that lack an equivalent Missouri law, or risk being sued for $50,000 by private citizens who assert their Second Amendment rights have been violated.  

Missouri police are also prohibited from giving “material aid and support” to federal agents and prosecutors in enforcing those “invalid” laws on “law-abiding citizens” — defined as those who Missouri law permits to have a gun.

In the lawsuit, Biden’s Justice Department argues that the Missouri law “uniquely discriminates against federal agencies and employees; impairs law enforcement efforts in Missouri; and contravenes the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.”

The department further claims that there is “sound constitutional basis for federal firearm laws” that are enacted to serve “important public-safety functions.”

Additionally, the Justice Department argues that H.B. 85 “severely impairs federal criminal law enforcement operations within the State of Missouri” by preventing federal officers from working with local law enforcement.

“Critical information that state and local offices previously shared with federal law enforcement officers to facilitate public safety and law enforcement is now frequently unavailable to federal law enforcement agencies in the same manner as prior to H.B. 85,” the lawsuit states.

“A state cannot simply declare federal laws invalid,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, in a statement. “This act makes enforcement of federal firearms laws difficult and strains the important law enforcement partnerships that help keep violent criminals off the street.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that the act “impedes” law enforcement operations in Missouri, and the U.S. “will work to ensure that our state and local law enforcement partners are not penalized for doing their jobs to keep our communities safe.”

Responding to the lawsuit, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt accused the Biden administration of putting politics ahead of public safety, Politico reported. For years, Missouri’s Safer Streets Initiative have promoted a partnership between local law enforcement and U.S. attorneys to prosecute violent crimes, but the Justice Department recently dropped out of the program.

“Time and again, the Biden Administration has put partisan politics ahead of public safety,” Schmitt said in a statement. “Make no mistake, the law is on our side in this case, and I intend to beat the Biden Administration in court once again.”