'We will fight tooth and nail': Missouri pushes back on Department of Justice gun law warning

Galen Bacharier
Springfield News-Leader
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt speaks to reporters in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 19, 2019. Schmitt and Gov. Mike Parson pledged to defend the recently signed Second Amendment Preservation Act, which seeks to penalize local law enforcement from enforcing federal gun laws.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday accusing the federal government of trying to "tell Missourians how to live our lives," pushing back on the department's request to provide clarification on a recently signed gun bill.

The letter from Missouri leaders comes in response to a letter sent Wednesday evening by Acting Assistant US Attorney General Brian Boynton. It cited the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause and said the state doesn't have the authority to enforce the Second Amendment Preservation Act — a bill recently signed by Parson that penalizes local police departments for knowingly following federal gun laws. Boynton's letter was first reported by the Associated Press.

In their response, Parson and Schmitt, who is also running for U.S. Senate, referenced the Second Amendment and Tenth Amendment and argued that Missouri was not attempting to nullify federal law but "defending its people from federal government overreach." They criticized President Joe Biden's administration's "radical, anti-gun position," and pledged to defend the bill.

"Our letter to Biden's Department of Justice sends a clear message: we will fight any attempts from the federal government to encroach on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens," Schmitt said in a news release.

More:Springfield law enforcement agencies react to 'Second Amendment Preservation Act'

The Second Amendment Preservation Act, signed into law Saturday by Parson, allows local law enforcement agencies to be sued for $50,000 if they violate it. The legislation has faced sharp criticism from Democrats and gun control groups, who have pointed out potential risk regarding domestic abuse and expected the law to go to court.

The bill "conflicts with federal firearms laws and regulation," and U.S. attorney's offices in Missouri would continue to enforce them, Boynton wrote in his letter. He had originally requested that Parson and Schmitt respond with clarification regarding the law by Friday.

"We will fight tooth and nail to defend the right to keep and bear arms ... and we will not tolerate any attempt by the federal government to deprive Missourians of this critical civil right," Parson and Schmitt wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Galen Bacharier covers Missouri politics and government for the News-Leader. Contact him at gbacharier@gannett.com, (573) 219-7440 or on Twitter @galenbacharier.