J. D. Heyes
Feb 23, 2013
In a twist on the typical anti-gun legislation floating around in statehouses and the nation’s capital these days, a lawmaker from Missouri is taking a different tact. Rather than criminalizing gun owners, he is seeking to criminalize fellow legislators who attempt to criminalize the state’s gun owners.
Rep. Mike Leara, a Republican from suburban St. Louis, says he doesn’t think his bill stands much of a chance of passing, but he’s proposing it anyway to send a message if nothing else.
His legislation requires that colleagues be convicted and sent to prison for up to four years if they introduce gun control legislation, a bill which “highlights the increasingly strident tone of gun measures in Missouri’s generally pro-gun Legislature,” local St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOX reported.
In defending his bill, Leara said it was being offered up as a statement of principle – namely, that gun ownership is a constitutional matter.
“I have no illusions about the bill making it through the legislative process,” he said in a statement, “but I want it to be clear the Missouri House will stand in defense of the people’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms.” He declined to comment further.
Oh, but gun control measures are constitutional?
Since last year’s shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., a number of state and federal proposals to ban guns and limit magazines have been proposed. Even President Obama has called for new measures that would ban military look-alike rifles, impose background checks on all gun purchases and magazine restrictions.
But in Missouri, the approach has largely been just the opposite – more guns and more access to guns, not less.
Not all of the state’s legislators are enamored with Leara’s bill, of course. One of them, state Rep. Stacey Newman, a Democrat from St. Louis, said – ironically – that Leara’s measure is “unconstitutional” (not her measure, which would impose new requirements and restrictions on gun dealers).
Leara’s bill comes less than a week after other St. Louis-area Democrats introduced a bill containing a military look-alike ban that would require any owners of said weapons to surrender them to police, destroy them or send them out of state within 90 days of the bill’s passage, or face jail.
One of the sponsors of that bill, state Rep. Rory Ellinger, said he knew that his measure would never pass the heavily Republican Legislature, then comically said he still wanted a “dialogue” on gun safety.
Some GOP members have made it a point to skewer Ellinger’s proposal despite the implausibility of its passage. Rep. Eric Burlison of Springfield, for instance, posted a YouTube video of him blasting a physical copy of the measure with a handgun.
Other state lawmakers are concentrating more on potential new federal anti-gun legislation. One proposal, by Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, has decided “to take swift and strong actions to counteract the federal government” by introducing a bill to criminalize any enforcement of new federal gun control laws enacted after Jan. 1, 2013.
A second bill prevents federal regulation of guns made in Missouri and which remain within the state’s borders. A House committee has yet to vote on either bill.
Other measures would strengthen the Second Amendment in the state
Lawmakers have also proposed legislation aimed at addressing school-based gun violence, but the political divide here is wide and long as well.
In mid-February, the Missouri Senate gave initial approval to a bill that would grant school districts the option of teaching the National Rifle Association’s gun-safety program to elementary-age children. It would also allow teachers and other school personnel to undergo training on how best to respond to armed intruders.
The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Don Brown, R-Rolla, initially mandated that schools adopt both programs but opposition from Democrats led him to make the programs optional.
Finally, a Senate committee has considered a state constitutional amendment to widen provisions providing for citizens’ right to bear arms by specifying that the right is “inalienable.” The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, would additionally require the state to oppose any new “infringement” on that right.