New York – Everytown Law, the largest team of litigators in the U.S. working on advancing gun violence prevention in the courts, and the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, released the following statements applauding the U.S. Department of Justice after it filed suit to prevent Missouri from enforcing its nullification law. The law dangerously prohibits state and local officials from assisting with the enforcement of federal gun laws and fines local law enforcement agencies up to $50,000 for any violations.
“As the Department of Justice made clear, Missouri’s dangerous and blatantly unconstitutional nullification law is stopping law enforcement from protecting the public from gun violence, and the Department won’t stand for that,” said Eric Tirschwell, Managing Director of Everytown Law. “Arkansas, and every other state that has passed or is considering similar legislation, should take note that illegal efforts to nullify life-saving gun safety laws will not go unchallenged.”
“Law enforcement and local officials across Missouri have continued to say what they’ve been saying all along – this nullification law is endangering communities and hamstringing efforts to keep us safe,” said Tara Bennett, a volunteer with the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We’re grateful the Department of Justice is helping lead the fight against this dangerous law.”
The Department of Justice’s lawsuit alleges that Missouri’s nullification law has hindered cooperation between federal, state, and local law enforcement in enforcing federal firearms laws. As a result of the penalties associated with the law, state and local agencies have stopped sharing critical data used to solve violent crimes and withdrawn from joint federal task forces.
In August, the Department of Justice issued a statement of interest in support of a challenge brought against the nullification law by St. Louis, which argues that the law is unconstitutional and dangerous and seeks an injunction to block the law. Everytown Law filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence supporting St. Louis’s challenge, and has released a memo urging the Department of Justice to take action regarding an Arkansas law that also purports to nullify federal gun laws.
According to the Kansas City Star, which obtained a copy of a letter sent by the Missouri Police Chiefs Association (MPCA) late last year, Missouri law enforcement officials expressed to state lawmakers that the law’s “wording and structure have caused confusion and potentially unintended legal implications.” The MPCA additionally expressed a desire to “[protect] officers from frivolous civil litigation related to the continued joint endeavors with our federal partners.” Governor Parson has also admitted that the law needs to be revisited. Last month, nearly 60 police chiefs across Missouri joined a lawsuit challenging the nullification law.
Local officials from across the political spectrum, including traditionally conservative law enforcement leaders and county prosecutors, have also spoken out against nullification. In a 60 Minutes segment, Butler County prosecutor Kacey Proctor and General Counsel for Missouri Office of Prosecution Services Steve Sokoloff said the law “has a tremendously chilling effect on law enforcement officers,” forcing local law enforcement to disband from federal task forces and avoid partnering with federal agencies despite their longstanding practice of sharing resources and manpower, making it more difficult to identify and arrest people who have committed violent crimes involving guns.