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The Midwest Newsroom is a partnership between NPR and member stations to provide investigative journalism and in-depth reporting with a focus on Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Missouri Supreme Court lets St. Louis, Jackson County challenge controversial gun law

Weapons and hand guns for sale.
Dan Verbeck
The Second Amendment Preservation Act prevents Missouri police from cooperating with federal officials who attempt to enforce gun laws or regulations that are seen as an infringement on a citizen's right to bear arms.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that St. Louis and Jackson County may challenge the constitutionality of a law passed last year barring Missouri police from enforcing federal gun regulations.

In a 6-1 decision, Missouri's highest court sent a case about the Second Amendment Preservation Act back to Cole County Circuit Court. That's where St. Louis and Jackson County previously tried to persuade a judge to block the law without success.

SAPA prevents Missouri police from cooperating with federal officials who attempt to enforce gun laws or regulations that are seen as an infringement on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. It allows anyone who believes their rights have been violated to sue police departments for up to $50,000.

SAPA has been widely criticized by law enforcement throughout the state who say the law complicates police work.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said in a brief the law has caused 12 Missouri law enforcement agencies to end their partnerships with the bureau. The brief also stated the Missouri State Highway Patrol stopped participating in some federal investigations after the law was enacted. The Justice Department has also sharply criticized the law.

During oral arguments in February, Missouri Solicitor General D. John Sauer said the court didn’t need to hear the case yet because St. Louis and Jackson County did not argue the constitutionality of SAPA in the Cole County Court case.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that St. Louis and Jackson County can argue whether SAPA is legal, but must first have that argument in front of a Cole County judge before the state’s high court will consider the issue.

In a statement Tuesday, St. Louis City, Jackson County and St. Louis County lauded the court's decision, calling the law, which passed as House Bill 85, "dangerous" and "blatantly unconstitutional."

"Municipalities and law enforcement groups across Missouri are coming together to challenge HB 85, which takes away critical tools we need to protect communities from gun violence," the statement read.

Judge Zel Fischer dissented, writing he would affirm the circuit court’s judgment to throw out the case and argued the challengers can challenge the law through other pending lawsuits.

Kavahn Mansouri is the Midwest Newsroom’s investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @kavahnmansouri

The Midwest Newsroom is an investigative journalism collaboration including St. Louis Public Radio, KCUR, Iowa Public Radio, Nebraska Public Media and NPR.

Updated: April 26, 2022 at 6:13 PM CDT
This story was updated to include a comment from St. Louis and Jackson counties and the City of St. Louis.
Kavahn Mansouri joins KCUR 89.3 and the Midwest Newsroom from the Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat.

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