The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday declined to revive a Missouri law that bars state and local officials from enforcing certain federal gun restrictions that the Republican-crafted law had claimed to nullify for violating firearms rights protected by the Constitution’s Second Amendment.
Handing a victory to President Joe Biden’s administration, the justices rejected a request by Missouri officials to halt a federal judge’s ruling that invalidated the 2021 state law, called the Second Amendment Preservation Act. The Second Amendment enshrines the right “to keep and bear arms.”
The administration sued Missouri in 2022 to block the law. It had urged the Supreme Court not to revive the measure, arguing that it violated a constitutional provision called the “supremacy clause” that makes federal law supersede conflicting state laws. The administration said that the measure improperly interfered with U.S. firearms regulations and undermined public safety.
Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas on Friday indicated that he would have reinstated the Missouri law.
The Biden administration sued Missouri in 2022 to block the law, which was signed the previous year by Republican Governor Mike Parson at a gun shop.
The Missouri law declared that certain federal regulations governing taxes, firearm sales and restrictions on gun possession by people convicted of certain felonies, convicted of a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence, people dishonorably discharged from the military and some others were invalid based on alleged infringement of Second Amendment rights.
The law threatened state and local officials with fines of up $50,000 for knowingly enforcing federal gun laws deemed by the Republican-controlled state legislature to violate the Second Amendment.
The Biden administration has said the law caused many Missouri state and local law enforcement agencies to stop voluntarily assisting in the enforcement of federal gun laws or providing investigative assistance.
U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes in a March ruling invalidated the law as a violation of the supremacy clause.
“While purporting to protect citizens, (the Missouri law) exposes citizens to greater harm by interfering with the federal government’s ability to enforce lawfully enacted firearms regulations designed by Congress for the purpose of protecting citizens,” Wimes wrote.
The St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in September declined to halt the judge’s ruling, prompting Missouri officials to seek emergency relief from the Supreme Court.
Gun rights, held dear by many Americans and promised by the country’s 18th century founders, are a contentious issue in a nation with high levels of firearms violence including numerous mass shootings. Biden, who has called gun violence a national embarrassment, and many of his fellow Democrats support firearms restrictions, while most Republicans oppose these.
The Supreme Court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, has taken a broad view of Second Amendment rights in three major rulings since 2008. The most recent of these came in 2022 when the court declared for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.
The Supreme Court is set to decide a major gun case in its current term testing whether a federal law that keeps firearms away from people under domestic-violence restraining orders violates the Second Amendment. Arguments are scheduled for Nov. 7.