JEFFERSON CITY — This year could see gun owners in Missouri legally assembling into a state-sanctioned militia.

The bill creating the Missouri minutemen, Senate Bill 528, was one of several bills heard this week in the Senate General Laws Committee aimed at protecting and expanding gun rights in the state. Some of these bills, and others throughout the session, speak to state lawmakers’ growing concern that a more liberal federal administration will be able to start enacting more gun control measures.

Though a novel approach, the minutemen bill would effectively put firearms into state custody, with the intention of removing them from federal jurisdiction.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin, said the bill would have two effects. The first, most obvious effect would be to create a force designed to protect the state in case of an “Armageddon-style” event.

“This is not designed as a military combat-type force. This is something to be called up in the example of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse), a burst solar flare, a complete loss of power grid in the state,” White said, adding that the force could be second to State Emergency Management Agency or local sheriff’s departments in distributing aid or guarding supplies.

The more immediate and likely effect of the bill is to take gun regulation and taxation from the control of the federal government.

“While you are minuteman, your firearms will, for sovereignty and jurisdiction purposes, be considered to be state property,” White said. “Why would we want to do that? This goes back to the foundation of the federal government. The only entity the federal government cannot seize property from, cannot tax property, is the state.”

Despite the bill’s intent and the controversial nature of a proposal to create a state civilian militia, most concerns came from gun rights advocates. One expressed worry that the Department of Homeland Security could somehow confiscate a list of minutemen and use it to confiscate weapons. Another wondered what would happen if a liberal governor was elected and had control over the now technically state-owned firearms. A third simply opposed the idea of any government having control over personal weapons.

A potential issue was also implicit throughout the hearing in one common refrain — “if it survives a court challenge.” This phrase came up frequently in the discussion of this bill and two other bills meant to directly nullify federal gun laws. Because all represent a direct challenge to federal authority, their legality is pretty reasonably uncertain.

Other gun proposals

House Bill 85, which has already passed the House, would establish the Second Amendment Preservation Act. The act would attempt to use the Anti-Commandeering Doctrine, which has allowed states to adopt less restrictive marijuana laws than the federal government, to directly challenge federal rights to institute gun control or taxation.

The bill has been changed to punish police departments that enforce federal laws instead of individual police officers. It would also prohibit police from working with any federal authorities to enforce gun laws. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Republic, argued that the bill is meant to help law enforcement.

“They don’t want to be the ones that go and force AR-15 bans or 30-round magazine bans, or, you know, any kind of federal new gun laws that are being proposed at the federal level, … but they will be the ones knocking on the doors asking for those guns,” Taylor said. “And I promise you that’s not going to go very well.”

The committee also heard testimony on a bill, House Bill 52, that would allow guns on public transportation. The bill has already passed out of the House this year, but opponents were back to voice their concerns to the committee’s senators.

Opponents, including the Kansas City mayor and Missouri Public Transit Association, cited low percentages of violent incidents on public transport in their regions and concerns about armed people in closed high-occupancy spaces. Supporters pointed to gun owners’ need to transport their weapons and to be able protect themselves.

Throughout the testimony supporting these bills, advocates and lawmakers came back to deep distrust of the federal government’s role in gun legislation. Many emphasized the growing urgency this year.

“We all have seen the writing on the wall with the federal government that we have right now,” said lobbyist and gun advocate Tony Shepherd.

Source: Grace Zokovitch, The Missourian