A Republican state legislator in Missouri has proposed legislation that would make it a felony for lawmakers to introduce legislation to restrict Second Amendment rights in the state.
Legislation introduced Monday by state Rep. Mike Leara (R-St. Louis) would make state legislators guilty of a Class D felony if they introduce legislation "that further restricts an individual's right to bear arms." Leara said that the bill is needed because he sees a growing number of his colleagues looking to take away gun rights from the state's residents.
“We seem to be having a lot of people willing to further restrict our constitutional rights and take our rights," Leara told The Huffington Post. "It is a push-back to the people who don’t believe in our constitutional rights. There have to be consequences to removing our constitutional rights.”
Leara said recent legislation which would ban assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines from being manufactured or carried in Missouri pushed him to introduce his bill. Under the assault weapons ban introduced by state Rep. Rory Ellinger (D-University City), Missouri residents who own assault weapons and high-capacity magazines would have 90 days to remove them from Missouri after the bill takes effect.
Ellinger's bill was referred to the state House General Laws Committee on Monday, but no hearing date has been scheduled by the committee.
“That went too far," Leara said of Ellinger's bill. "It was a confiscation bill without compensation.”
The Missouri state Legislature website lists 24 firearms bills currently pending in the state House of Representatives. These include bills requiring guns to be sold by licensed dealers; allowing teachers to carry guns; lowering the age for a concealed carry permit from 21 to 19; and allowing state employees to keep guns in their cars when they are parked in state-owned parking garages.
According to the website of the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission, those guilty of a class D felony can be sentenced to up to four years in jail and can receive a probation sentence of between one and five years. The text of Leara's legislation has not been posted on the state website.
Leara said that he does not think his bill will face problems in terms of its constitutionality under the First Amendment or a provision in the state constitution giving legislators immunity from arrest for official actions.
“If we attempted to take away people’s constitutional rights outside the legislative process or civil rights, there would be consequences," Leara said. "I believe there have to be consequences for this. I value our Second Amendment rights as importantly as civil rights.”
Leara's legislation is the latest in a series of pro-Second Amendment bills being introduced in state legislatures around the country. They include a series of bills to prohibit the enforcement of federal gun bans in states, a bill in Mississippi to create a nullification commission, and a bill in Kansas that would prohibit doctors from asking about gun ownership.
State Rep. Stephen Webber (D-Columbia) told HuffPost that there "are a ton of bad bills filed every year" but said that the legislature should have discussions about them anyway. The bill will likely be stopped by the legislative process or courts, he said. Leara should pursue defeating bills in the legislature, rather than focusing on felony legislation, Webber added.
Webber also noted that he has concerns over the content of the bill.
“I find it ironic that people are willing to sacrifice the First Amendment at the alter of the Second," he said. “You don’t make it a crime to bring up an idea.”