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Local leaders and law enforcement cite new bill as cause for increased gun violence

The controversial preservation act has led to an increase in complaints from small law enforcement offices. (Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

Rates of gun violence have spiked across Missouri, including in areas around UM System schools. 

Near the UM System’s Columbia campus alone, there have been four shootings since the beginning of August. The most recent incident, on Nov. 14, left one person dead and five others injured.

Columbia Mayor Brian Treece said the state government’s actions are to blame for the increase. In a press briefing, Treece pointed specifically to the passage of Missouri House Bill 85, more commonly known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA).

“We need to address the Second Amendment Preservation Act that prohibits local law enforcement from working with federal ATF to make sure that felons, federal felons, cannot possess handguns,” Treece said.

Sponsored by Republican Senator Eric Burlison, the SAPA was signed into law by Governor Mike Parson in the summer of 2021. The bill states that federal laws attempting to restrict the purchase, ownership and use of firearms exceed the federal powers outlined in the Constitution. Importantly, the SAPA also imposes a fine of $50,000 to any law enforcement official who cooperates with federal agencies. 

UMKC criminal justice professor Ken Novak previously predicted a rise in gun violence would follow the bill’s passage, specifically in urban areas that house the University of Missouri’s other campuses. He said that it could be difficult to enforce and prosecute gun-related crimes, possibly compromising public safety.

“This is probably not in the best interest for Missourians who live in urban areas that experience a disproportionate amount of gun violence, like Kansas City, St. Louis, and Springfield,” Novak said.

Novak’s concerns were echoed by Kansas City Mayor Quentin Lucas in a Nov. 5 interview with Norah O’Donnell on 60 Minutes. He explained that local law enforcement agencies need the aid of the federal government to deal with the sheer volume of incidents.

“On a night in Kansas City, you can have multiple people shot,” Lucas said. “In the same way that if you have a severe storm hit a city, we bring in federal resources to help us with that crisis. This is the problem with gun violence right now in some of America’s major cities.”

Kansas City is at the center of the publicity surrounding the bill, as Parson signed the bill into law at Frontier Justice, a firearm retailer in Lee’s Summit. Jackson County has since joined St. Louis County in a suit against Missouri’s government over the bill. 

The suit brought by St. Louis and Jackson Counties is set to appear in Missouri’s Supreme Court next year. Burlison and his fellow co-sponsor, Representative Jered Taylor, said they believe the suit will eventually make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the pair remain optimistic about the bill’s survival. 

“I love our chances,” Burlison said in an interview with CBS News.

In southern Missouri, Poplar Bluff Chief of Police Danny Whiteley has gained national attention for his efforts to get the law changed. He told CBS News that without the resources the federal agencies usually provide, his department may have trouble getting convictions. According to Whiteley, this bill only benefits criminals.

“I support the intent of the law,” Whiteley clarified in a later interview. “But they need to fix it so we can protect the citizens and protect our families, and the law-abiding citizens can still have all the firearms they want.”

Burlison and Taylor said that they believe any trouble local agencies are having now is the result of misunderstanding the bill. When asked if they would be open to looking at revisions for the bill, Taylor took a firm stance against making any changes.

“I’m not willing to even consider that at this point,” Taylor said.

As of November 2021, 17 states have laws that are like Missouri’s SAPA. However, Missouri’s law goes the furthest in the restriction of enforcing federal gun laws. Burlison and Taylor said they hope Missouri’s law will prompt more states to enact similar legislation.

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