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Missouri Supreme Court Allows Challenge to Nullification Law to Proceed

4.27.2022

The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Represented by Everytown Law, Filed an Amicus Brief in Support of the Challenge

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – 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 after the Missouri Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision, allowing a challenge brought by St. Louis against the state’s dangerous nullification law to proceed. The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MOCADSV), represented by Everytown Law, filed an amicus brief supporting St. Louis’s challenge. 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. 

“Missouri’s unconstitutional nullification law puts Missouri residents – including domestic violence survivors – in danger,” said Eric Tirschwell, managing director of Everytown Law. “We’re optimistic that when the Circuit Court rules on the merits, it will throw out this deadly law.”

“This ruling is an important step in the fight to protect Missourians and overturn our state’s dangerous nullification law,” said Leslie Washington, an Everytown Survivor Fellow and volunteer with the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Law enforcement and local officials across Missouri have all agreed – this unconstitutional law is impeding efforts to keep us safe and putting our communities in danger.”

Key quotes from the Coalition’s amicus brief include:

“Domestic violence is all too common across the country and in Missouri. But it is the presence of guns in the hands of abusers that frequently turns domestic violence lethal. It is imperative that abusers’ access to firearms be limited to protect domestic violence survivors.”

“[W]ell-established social science research shows that the presence of firearms turns domestic violence situations deadly. While federal law restricts abusers’ access to firearms, SAPA effectively nullifies these protections, leaving victims of domestic violence vulnerable to an increased risk of being threatened, shot at, or killed in their homes, and an increased risk of their children facing the same dangers.”

The challenge argues that the law is unconstitutional and dangerous and seeks an injunction to block the law. Everytown has released a memo urging the Department of Justice to take action regarding an Arkansas law that also purports to nullify federal gun laws. In August, the Department of Justice issued a statement of interest in support of this challenge.

Recently, the Department of Justice also filed a lawsuit, alleging that this 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.

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.