On Sunday, 60 Minutes aired a segment on Missouri’s new law prohibiting state and local officials from assisting with the enforcement of federal gun laws. The law subjects local law enforcement agencies to $50,000 fines for any violations. Officials across the political spectrum, including traditionally conservative law enforcement leaders and county prosecutors, have spoken out against the new law.
By effectively nullifying federal gun laws, the law has made it much more difficult for state and local law enforcement to do their jobs. Butler County prosecutor Kacey Proctor and General Counsel for Missouri Office of Prosecution Services Steve Sokoloff said the law “has a tremendously chilling effect on law enforcement officers,” forcing local law enforcement to disband from federal task forces and avoid partnering with federal agencies despite their longstanding practice of sharing resources and manpower. Since the law’s enactment, officers have refrained from referring cases to federal agencies in fear of breaking the law and incurring burdensome fines. This hesitation has only made it more difficult to identify and arrest people who have committed violent crimes involving guns.
Poplar Bluff’s longest standing police chief, Danny Whitely, echoed Proctor and Sokoloff’s criticisms. He shared nine recent incidents of alleged gun crime that would usually be referred to federal prosecutors but weren’t because of the law. Asked if this law benefits criminals, Whitely said, “I don’t think it does. I know it does.”
Missouri city officials have likewise voiced their concern. Federal laws that once filled gaps in Missouri law are now essentially invalidated at the state level. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said this law could not come at a worse time and worries that there could be severe consequences for domestic violence survivors in Missouri. “There’s been a domestic violence loophole in Missouri law for years now,” he said. “The saving grace alone was that there was a federal law that a police officer could say they’re violating. Now that we lose that, what does this mean for so many in Missouri, so many survivors of domestic violence? I hope it doesn’t make them victims.”
The new law will only compound the effects of Missouri’s already weak gun laws. In an average year, 1,222 people die by guns in Missouri, and 2,584 more are wounded. Gun deaths and injuries cost Missouri $10 billion, of which $507 million is paid by taxpayers. More on Missouri gun violence can be found here.
Watch the full 60 Minutes segment here.