Given my job and RF’s new home base in Austin, I have reason to travel to Texas from time to time. You know, Texas – that nirvana of gun rights where every cow poke totes a six shooter and guns are ingrained in the culture like nowhere else? Yeah, well that’s mostly a load of horse hockey. Texas’s gun laws have a long way to go before they approach the freedoms firearms owners in a lot of other states enjoy. Places like…Missouri, for instance. Yes, the gun laws in my home state make Texas looks like, well, Maryland by comparison . . .
Well almost. It’s not constitutional carry, but Missouri has concealed carry almost everywhere and a statewide preemption law that covers everything except open carry (and that may change soon, too.) None of those ludicrous 30.06 or 51% signs that can turn almost any business into an instant felony zone. Still, that doesn’t mean we don’t have our share of politicians up here who’d love to be able to treat the Bill of Rights like a cafeteria line.
Take, for instance, state representative Joshua Peters. He’s a St. Louis Democrat (it’s a one-party town) who represents Missouri’s 76th district on the city’s north side. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the area, that’s one of the most dangerous, crime-ridden districts in the state. And the reason for all of those crimes? Guns, of course! At least, that how Rep. Peters sees it.
But don’t worry northsiders, because Rep. Peters has a plan. Along with four other state reps who are apparently similarly ignorant of current Second Amendment jurisprudence, Peters has introduced HB2129 for the General Assembly’s consideration. How will the bill curb the north side’s age-old crime problem? Simple:
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the state of Missouri, as follows:
Section A. Chapter 571, RSMo, is amended by adding thereto one new section, to be known as section 571.520, to read as follows:
571.520. 1. This section shall be known and may be cited as the “Protecting the Second Amendment Act”.
2. No person residing in a city not within a county shall own, possess, manufacture, transport, repair, or sell:
(1) A shotgun;
(2) A short-barreled or sawed-off rifle;
(3) An automatic handgun; or
(4) A flamethrower. For purposes of this section, the term “flamethrower” shall mean a mechanical incendiary device designed to project a long controllable stream of fire.
3. The metropolitan police department of a city not within a county shall develop and institute a surrender process whereby the firearms prohibited in subsection 2 of this section may be surrendered to the metropolitan police department. The metropolitan police department of a city not within a county shall relinquish all firearms surrendered under this subsection to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
4. Any person violating the provisions of subsection 2 of this section shall be guilty of a class A felony.
That’s the entire text of the bill. For those of you from normal jurisdictions, because of a quirk dating back to the Civil War, St. Louis is the only city in the state that’s not part of a county. Therefore, HB2129 would only apply there.
Boiled down to its unconstitutional essence then, Peters and his pals would outlaw shotguns, SBRs and all those automatic handguns (not to mention flamethrowers) in the city of St. Louis. But wait…here’s the best part: they’ve gone full-Orwell and are calling their little opus the Protecting the Second Amendment Act. Double-plus good, no?
No, actually. The bill is DOA for a number of reasons. Set aside for now all of the Heller considerations (i.e. weapons in common use for lawful purposes). We can pour SCOTUS-drafted cold water all over Peters’ Protecting the Second Amendment Act, making angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin arguments about out how commonly shotguns are used for home defense ’til the cows come home. But we won’t really have to, and here’s why.
The state of Missouri has a very robust exemption statute already in place. Here’s the relevant part:
No county, city, town, village, municipality, or other political subdivision of this state shall adopt any order, ordinance or regulation concerning in any way the sale, purchase, purchase delay, transfer, ownership, use, keeping, possession, bearing, transportation, licensing, permit, registration, taxation other than sales and compensating use taxes or other controls on firearms, components, ammunition, and supplies except as provided in subsection 3 of this section.
That should give you an idea of the state’s attitude toward the right to keep and bear arms. So while a law like the Protecting the Second Amendment act could theoretically be enacted at the state level, it won’t be. Missouri’s legislature is controlled by strong pro-gun majorities in both houses. So why bother with something as futile as HB2129?
I called the Representative’s office last week and spoke to his legislative assistant, Philip Hogan. There seems to be some kind of communication break-down in Rep. Peters’ office, though, because Mr. Hogan told me he hadn’t heard of HB2129. Then again, maybe there’s a deeper personnel problem in Peters’ operation, because Hogan also told me he was unaware of the state’s preemption law. I left a message for the Representative to call me, but haven’t heard from him. Given the caliber of people working for him, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s entirely possible he never got the message.
But that leaves a couple of unanswered questions. Was Rep. Peters somehow unaware of the pro-2A stance of the legislature? If his bill were – by some miracle – enacted, is he aware that it’s clearly in violation of the Supreme Court’s Heller v District of Columbia decision?
By all accounts, Rep. Peters is no dummy. The telegenic, clean-cut legislative greenhorn has a stellar resume (if getting elected is your goal):
In his freshman year in Lincoln University, Joshua served as Vice President of the Freshman class. This office granted him a position as a Student Government Association Senator. He says he receives satisfaction from listening to constituent concerns and drafting, presenting, and supporting legislation to address them. In his senior year, Joshua served as the 75th President of the Student Government Association (SGA), representing over 4,500 students and managing a budget of $1,000.000.00. Prior to serving as President, Mr. Peters held the position of Vice President of the Student Government Association as well Cheif Justice of the Student Suprme Court.
He is the very model of the modern public servant. Sure, he’s young and a little wet behind the ears, but he’s learned the – ahem – art of machine politics working for the second generation of the public-service-job-for-life Clay family. So as long as he continues to play his cards right, he’ll retire from public office forty or fifty years down the road with a fat taxpayer-financed pension, if that’s what he wants to do.
Which could only mean one thing: it’s all just naked political grandstanding for the folks back home. A convenient, camera-ready talking point he can pull out of his back pocket the next time there’s a Saturday night multiple shooting in his district and one of the local TV stations knocks on his door looking for a reaction. He’ll summon his most serious I’m-deeply-concerned media face, and do his best to capture the fierce urgency of now by spouting something like, “Katie, I’m as horrified by the level of gun violence in my district as any of my constituents. In fact, I sponsored legislation in the Assembly that would have outlawed the very kinds of firearms that were used in this heinous crime tonight. But given the power of the gun lobby in this state, I couldn’t even get my bill a hearing.”
Maybe Rep. Peters should hire me.
[h/t Dirk Diggler, Esquire]