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Legal challenges to Second Amendment Preservation Act get new life after Supreme Court ruling

St. Louis and St. Louis County police fear their departments or individual officers could face big fines or even jail time if the law stays on the books.

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — A ruling issued this week by the Missouri Supreme Court this week could have major implications for police in their fight against crime.

The state's highest court overturned a lower court ruling that initially threw out a challenge to the state's controversial Second Amendment Preservation Act.

St. Louis and St. Louis County police challenged the GOP-backed law in court, fearing their departments or individual officers could face big fines or even jail time if the law stays on the books. 

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, a Democrat, said police should be free to do their jobs and pursue violent criminals. 

"Our city is wracked by gun violence," Reed said. 

Instead, he fears local detectives and task force members face a political obstacle created in Jefferson City.

Reed said law enforcement should not be "restricted by some overreaching state law." 

Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed the Second Amendment Preservation Act into law last year, threatening to fine local or federal law enforcement officers up to $1,000 and sentence them up to a year in jail if they enforce federal gun laws in Missouri.

"Our law enforcement, it's going to have a chilling effect on them," Reed said. 

The same law would expose police departments to fines of up to $50,000 if they partner with the FBI, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency or the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to "register, track" or forbid the "transfer of any kind of firearm."

Police fear if the court upholds the law as written, they would be barred from partnering with federal agents to share data, track murder weapons and solve crimes. 

Could the state law have the effect of locking up cops and defunding the police?

That's one question now back before the courts where law enforcement are tangling with Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the state's top lawyer, a Republican who is also running for a U.S. Senate seat this fall.

“Since the Second Amendment Preservation Act was passed, I promised to fiercely defend the law and Missourians’ Second Amendment rights—that’s exactly what we did in this case and will continue to do moving forward," Schmitt said in an emailed statement.

Schmitt's staff declined to make him available for an interview, but said they don't believe the law will have the effect of defunding police. 

Schmitt is running in the Republican Senate primary against Rep. Vicky Hartzler.

Last week, Hartzler, who represents west-central Missouri, signed a letter to the Department of Justice and the ATF calling the Biden administration's crackdown on untraceable "ghost guns" an "unconstitutional assault on our Second Amendment Rights."

The ATF and FBI both declined to comment. The Department of Justice is also suing Missouri in a separate case.

While the politicians who wrote these laws hit the campaign trail, many of the police officers who enforce them hope they're ultimately struck down in court.

And while Hartzler focused her criticism at federal law enforcement overreach, Reed says he's unaware of any instance where local police are violating someone's Second Amendment right  and suggested Republicans are using the issue to motivate voters in rural parts of the state. 

"There's still this notion that the government is going to come in and take away all your firearms, and that's not it at all," Reed said. "It's not an attack on your Second Amendment rights to allow law enforcement to go out and address the issues of illegal firearms on the streets of the city of St. Louis." 

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