Reckless lawmaking in Kansas and Missouri fails to protect citizens from guns

04/24/2014 4:01 PM

04/24/2014 4:01 PM

In the detached-from-reality universe known as the Missouri General Assembly, lawmakers are pondering what to do with federal agents who have the audacity to enforce firearms-related laws passed by the U.S. Congress.

Should such an offense be a felony or a misdemeanor? Should agents be liable for damages if a citizen who believes his or her Second Amendment rights have been violated decides to sue?

How about legislating that federal agents who attempt to enforce gun laws be barred for life from working for state or local government in Missouri? That’ll show ’em.

This nonsense is all part of this year’s effort to nullify federal gun laws in Missouri. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a similar bill last year and an override attempt narrowly failed.

Back in the real world, responsible people are trying to keep citizens safe. They worry that the legislature’s reckless lawmaking will make their jobs harder.

“Not only do you have to fight crime, you have to fight the people stopping us from fighting crime,” Alvin Brooks, president of the Kansas City Police Commissioners, said during a meeting this week.

Officials noted that agents with the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisted local police with the investigation that resulted in the swift arrest of a suspect in a rash of highway shootings in the Kansas City region.

“I’m grateful that they were there,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James said. “I’m concerned about going forward.”

A state gun nullification law could slow down the city’s promising violent crime prevention initiative, the Kansas City No Violence Alliance. Local police and prosecutors work closely with the FBI, ATF and U.S. attorney’s office to identify criminal networks and lean on members to either change their lifestyles or face stepped-up law enforcement scrutiny.

The idea that federal law enforcement professionals who carry out their sworn responsibilities may have to work under threat of criminal charges, lawsuits or restricted job opportunities is insulting and dangerous.

The Missouri legislature isn’t alone in its disrespect for communities and their efforts to keep the public safe.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback this week signed a law voiding any gun and knife laws passed by local governments, and decreeing that only the Legislature can regulate firearms. That means cities and counties cannot restrict areas where guns are carried openly, with the exception of public buildings, or regulate how guns are stored or transported.

Brownback’s signature could not have been more poorly timed. Community leaders around Kansas are examining their security measures in the wake of the horrific shootings at a community center and retirement home that took three lives on April 13. Now their state government has forbidden them to put any of those ideas into law.

Missouri already has stripped local governments of most jurisdiction to regulate firearms, and a provision to allow open carry of weapons regardless of what communities may desire is included in versions of the nullification bills.

Police and others who are trying to save lives shouldn’t have to worry about their own state legislatures undercutting their efforts. In Kansas, the damage has already been done. But there’s still time in Missouri for some adults in the Republican majority to step up and put public safety above the interests of gun-rights groups.

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