Will Missouri nullify federal firearms laws?

Ionic60Now there is a bold proposal that directly defies the federal government by nullifying federal firearms laws. State Rep. Casey Guernsey of Bethany, Missouri has filed a bill, HB 170, which:

  1. makes it unlawful for any state or local officer or employee (such as police, prosecutors and judges) or any federal firearms dealer to attempt to enforce any federal law relating to personal firearms, accessories or ammunition owned or manufactured in the state and that remain in the state; and
  2. makes it a felony for any federal agent to attempt to enforce such federal law; and
  3. authorizes any person in violation of a such federal law to request the attorney general to defend him or her for such violation; and
  4. that any new federal law that restricts ownership of a semi-automatic firearm (or magazine of a firearm) or requires its registration, shall be unenforceable in the state of Missouri.

State nullification of federal law is the legal theory that individual US states have the right to invalidate any federal law that the  state finds unconstitutional. In the early years of the republic, nullification was considered by many states, but the federal courts–not unexpectedly–have not upheld the doctrine.

Obviously, if it came to a showdown, the federal government might be able–to some extent–enforce its firearms laws in Missouri. What would really gut federal enforcement efforts, however, would be the lack of any assistance from state and local law enforcement. Having the Missouri Attorney General defend citizens prosecuted by the United States Attorney would also be interesting.

Proposed Missouri law would nullify federal gun laws

A proposed Missouri law pokes a (trigger) finger in Congress’ face. The proposed law, known as the Missouri Firearms Freedom Act, HB 1230, was pre-filed on December 1 by Rep. Cynthis Davis of O’Fallon.

The law is a direct challenge to the authority of the US Congress and would specifically invalidate federal firearms laws. The bill, which cites the 9th, 10th & 2nd amendments, as well as the US Commerce clause, declares that the federal government has no authority to regulate the sale, transport and use of personal firearms (rifles, shotguns and handguns) which are manufactured in–and remain in–Missouri.

The logic of the bill is that many federal firearms laws are based on federal interstate commerce powers. Therefore, if a gun does not enter into interstate commerce, Congress ought to have no authority to regulate it.

That is a fair and reasonable interpretation, but one that was abandoned almost 70 years ago when the US Supreme Court–in the case of Wickard v. Filburn–held that federal laws regarding wheat farming applied to any wheat, grown anywhere in the United States, whether it was sold across state lines or not.

This applied even if the farmer ate the wheat in his own kitchen.


As silly as this sounds, the same principle means that a handgun produced [and remaining] in Missouri is deemed to be involved in interstate commerce. Obviously, passage of this proposed legislation will set up a confrontation between the federal government and some Missouri citizen bold enough to violate federal gun laws based on the new state law. Good luck to that guy.

I didn’t see any provision in the bill claiming that Missouri would in any way defend its citizens against an illegal federal prosecution.

Montana and Tennessee have passed similar laws. Here’s a CNN piece:


Many other state legislatures will likely take up a version of the Firearms Freedom Act in the coming year. Even so, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has declared such laws have no effect on federal enforcement.

The question is whether the US Supreme Court will hold to the Wickard v. Filburn interpretation of the interstate commerce clause. If the commerce clause were to be re-interpreted in a more common sense manner, it would open the door to a massive rollback of federal control over the people and the states. For more information, go to the website Firearms Freedom Act.