Even before Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act took effect, there were a lot of grumbles from some law enforcement in the state who felt that the new law was going to set them up to be sued if they cooperated with federal agents in taking down criminal suspects who might be armed with a gun. SAPA, as it’s commonly called, not only prohibits state and local law enforcement from cooperating with the feds in enforcing any unconstitutional gun control laws, but provides an avenue by which officers can be individually sued for doing so.
Since SAPA took effect back in September, a handful of agencies have suspended all cooperation with federal authorities for fear of running afoul of the law. The law was also the subject of litigation by the city of St. Louis and a couple of counties, but a judge rejected a request to block the law from taking force. And while I don’t believe that the law as written should stop police from working with their federal counterparts, and plenty of agencies continue to do so, the Missouri Police Chiefs Association is now officially asking lawmakers to make some changes.
In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Star, the MPCA proposes specifying that the law would only apply to new federal gun restrictions approved after this past August, and that it doesn’t apply to suspects whom police encounter committing a crime.
It also proposes clarifying which weapons-related federal crimes local police are allowed to help enforce. The current law allows them to help enforce gun restrictions that are similar to those in Missouri law, as long as those charges are “merely ancillary” to another criminal charge — wording that police groups have called vague.
“It is our desire to protect the rights of ALL Missourians while protecting officers from frivolous civil litigation related to the continued joint endeavors with our federal partners,” the association wrote. “We look forward to working with you and your fellow lawmakers to address some clarifications in the law and eliminate those unintended consequences without derailing the intent of SAPA.”
MPCA director Robert Shockey, who is Arnold police chief, declined to be interviewed about the requests.
I haven’t seen a copy of the letter, so I can only base my opinion off of the report by the Kansas City Star, but the first two requests don’t seem to be unreasonable. I do have some concerns about the MPCA wanting to “clarify” which gun-related federal crimes can be enforced by law enforcement, though. First, if SAPA is only going to apply to federal gun laws that were passed after August of 2021, then there’s no need to clarify anything. Beyond that, though, does the phrase “merely ancillary” really need clarification? If an agency is cooperating with, say, a federal drug task force and a gun is discovered in the course of that drug investigation, then the gun charge is an ancillary one. If the feds are going after someone specifically for violating a new federal gun control law or regulation that isn’t mirrored in Missouri state law, local police can’t help. It’s really not that complicated.
Even if some of these complaints by police are overstated, I expect that they’re finding some receptive ears among lawmakers. SAPA original sponsor Rep. Jared Taylor has said he’s not in favor of any changes, but Gov. Mike Parson has indicated that he’s open to “adjustments” if necessary. I don’t think there’s any chance of the law being repealed outright, but whether or not the changes would make the law better or merely water it down is going to be the topic of much debate in Jefferson City in the months ahead, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see at least some minor revisions agreed to next session.