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Missouri lawmakers fall short on gun nullification

  • Article by: JORDAN SHAPIRO
  • Associated Press
  • May 16, 2014 - 8:50 PM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri's Legislature failed to advance highly publicized legislation that sought to nullify some federal gun laws as its session concluded Friday, but it did send the governor a measure that could allow specially trained teachers to carry concealed weapons in the classroom.

Despite being a top priority that majority GOP leaders pledged would be one of the first bills passed this year, a dispute among Republicans ultimately derailed the attempt to void any federal law that "infringed on people's right to keep and bear arms."

Courts have routinely ruled that states cannot nullify federal laws, but that hasn't stopped them from trying.

Supporters of the Missouri effort were divided until the session's final hours over how aggressive the measure should be in punishing federal agents who enforced unspecified gun laws.

"The problem is how to deal with a very fine line of language that isn't overprotection but still has elements to keep our community safe," House sponsor Rep. Doug Funderburk, R-St. Peters said.

The House adopted the final compromise and sent it to the Senate with less than 30 minutes remaining in the session. Democratic senators then were able to stall for the remaining time.

The final proposal was a scaled-back version of earlier measures, including one last year that was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. It would have allowed Missourians to sue and collect civil damages from federal officers. Previous plans could have subjected federal workers to prosecution, jail time and a lifetime ban on serving in state or local law enforcement.

Republicans agreed on a separate gun rights bill Friday and voted to send the measure to the governor. It would allow school districts to designate teachers or administrators to undergo training and carry concealed weapons in buildings.

Supporters said the school legislation would protect students from intruders. It would allow districts to select teachers or administrators as "school protection officers." Republicans began considering the legislation after the deadly 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, said arming teachers needs to be considered in light of school shootings.

"It is an unfortunate reality, but it is a reality," he said.

The House voted 111-28 on Friday to send it to Nixon's desk, a day after it cleared the Senate. Last year's nullification effort that Nixon vetoed had also included the school protection officer provision.

After lawmakers adjourned, Nixon expressed some reservations and said he would review the bill.

"School safety is important," he said. "I never believe guns in classrooms are a way to keep security and class order."

That measure would also lower the minimum age required to get a concealed weapons permit to 19 from 21 and allow permit holders to carry openly, even in municipalities that ban open carry.

In addition, health care professionals could not be required to ask or document whether a patient owns or has access to a gun and public housing authorities could not ban tenants or their family members from possessing firearms.

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