A Missouri law banning local police from enforcing federal gun laws remains in effect as a lawsuit against it is appealed.
U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes earlier this week struck down the law as an unconstitutional overstep by the state on the federal government. After Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey appealed, Wimes ruled the law can remain in effect until an appeals court takes up the case.
The Missouri law subjects law enforcement agencies with officers who knowingly enforce federal gun laws without equivalent state laws to a fine of $50,000 per violating officer.
Federal laws without similar Missouri laws include statutes covering weapons registration and tracking, and possession of firearms by some domestic violence offenders.
The Justice Department said the Missouri state crime lab, operated by the Highway Patrol, refused to process evidence that would help federal firearms prosecutions after the law took effect.
The Missouri Police Chiefs Association in a statement said the law led to confusion about “working with federal agency partners, hiring individuals who had worked for a federal agency, locating and returning stolen guns to their rightful owners as well as removing guns from the hands of criminals and individuals who are an imminent risk to themselves, family members or others around them.”
The city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and Jackson County filed a separate lawsuit against the law in state court, which is still pending.
The law was passed by the state’s Republican-led Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson in 2019.
Republican lawmakers who helped pass the bill said they were motivated by the potential for new gun restrictions under Democratic President Joe Biden, who signed the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades last year.
GOP House Speaker Dean Plocher declined to comment as the lawsuit goes through the appeals process.
Democrats said they were unsurprised the law was struck down.
“Those of us who were here when we had that debate, we constantly told them this was unconstitutional,” House Democratic Minority Leader Crystal Quade said.