O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — St. Louis and adjoining St. Louis County filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block Missouri's new law barring state and local authorities from enforcing federal gun laws, saying the law would increase the risk of gun violence in a state already drowning in it.
The suit filed in Cole County Circuit Court seeks an injunction to halt enforcement of the law and to overturn it on the grounds that it violates the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which established that federal law trumps state law.
The law, which Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed this month, would subject law enforcement agencies with officers who knowingly enforce any federal gun laws to a fine of about $50,000 per violating officer.
Republican lawmakers who championed the legislation said they were motivated by the possibility that gun restrictions could be tightened by President Joe Biden's administration. Democrats said the law is unconstitutional and predicted it wouldn't survive a court challenge.
Democratic St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said the law is not only unconstitutional, but dangerous. She noted that 2020 was among the deadliest years ever for gun violence in Missouri. St. Louis had its deadliest year in a half-century. Kansas City, meanwhile, saw a record number of killings last year.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, also a Democrat, said the region can't prosper if people don't feel safe.
“This new law is like the state holding out a sign that says ‘Come Commit Gun Violence Here,’” Page said in a statement.
Jackson County Executive Frank White says he supports the lawsuit filed by the city and county of St. Louis.
"Given the unconstitutionality, but more importantly, the public safety risks this law presents, I believe our community and state would best be served by Jackson County joining this action and for HB 85 to ultimately be deemed unenforceable by the court,” White said in a letter to Jackson County legislators.
White said he will be asking the county legislature to pass a resolution at its next meeting for the county to join the litigation.
The U.S. Department of Justice, in a letter last week, warned Missouri officials that the state can’t ignore federal law. Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt responded that they still plan to enforce the new law.
Schmitt’s spokesman, Chris Nuelle, called the lawsuit a “partisan” maneuver by “progressive politicians.”
“We will continue our efforts to prosecute violent crime, and we will not shy away from defending the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens,” Nuelle said.
The state law also prompted the resignation of the police chief of O’Fallon, a St. Louis suburb that is home to about 89,000 people and is the state's seventh-largest city. The outgoing chief, Philip Dupuis, said in a statement this month that the law would “decrease public safety and increase frivolous lawsuits designed to harass and penalize good, hard-working law enforcement agencies.”
Several states passed similar laws this year, including Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Missouri’s law went further than most in its possible punishments for officers who do enforce federal gun laws.
Several states also passed similar laws during Barack Obama's time in the White House, but judges ruled against them.