Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA) is one of the most incompetently drafted statutes to reach the Supreme Court in a long time. It is written as though the state legislature were trying to goad federal courts into striking it down — something such a court did, in fact, do last March.
And yet, if you stare at the law long enough, it is possible to find individual provisions that may actually be constitutional.
Granted, most of the law reads like a love letter to a discredited theory of states’ rights that sparked a crisis in the 1830s which threatened the Union and foreshadowed a coming Civil War. But, as Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey argues in a brief to the Supreme Court, at least some parts of the law can plausibly be read to advance a lawful and constitutional goal: barring Missouri law enforcement officers from enforcing certain federal gun laws.
The question the Supreme Court must untangle in Missouri v. United States, in other words, is what to do with a gun rights law that could have been constitutional if it were written differently, but that instead reads like it was drafted by a member of the John Birch Society after a night of heavy drinking.