The Republican-controlled Missouri House of Representatives advanced two more pro-gun measures this week in an effort to compete with neighboring Kansas as a new home for the nation's gun industry.
The House gave preliminary approval to legislation that would prohibit the enforcement of federal gun laws on all guns that are made and stay in Missouri, similar to a law enacted in April in Kansas. In addition, lawmakers included an amendment into an economic development bill that would give tax breaks to gun manufacturers that relocate to Missouri. The measure comes a week after the Missouri House passed legislation that would make it a felony to enforce all federal gun rules enacted after Jan. 1, 2013.
State Rep. Bill White (R-Joplin), who sponsored the gun tax-credit amendment, told The Huffington Post that his specific goal was to compete with Kansas for the gun and ammunition industry. Kansas has an unfair advantage in luring the gun industry away from states with stricter gun laws, he said.
"I did this because my district is Joplin and I live four miles from Kansas," White said. "We are at a disadvantage with our tax structure and Kansas' labor laws. It is difficult for people to look at Missouri."
White plans on reaching out to gun industry leaders to explain why they should move to Missouri. He said he has heard gun companies are seeking to leave Colorado and Connecticut after the enactment of stricter gun laws in those states, a claim reiterated by lawmakers in Kansas and Oklahoma.
Kansas state Rep. Brett Hildabrand (R-Shawnee), who sponsored his state's new gun enforcement ban, stressed that the law will appeal to gun industry.
"I am hoping that we can cash in on some of this," Hildabrand said. "We're different from Missouri and I think our overall business climate in Kansas can entice these companies."
Hildabrand said that while the two states could engage in a battle for the gun industry -- rehashing a 150-year-plus border war between the two states on everything from slavery to jobs to sports -- he also can envision a new gun corridor developing in the two states and nearby Oklahoma. He said with the Northeast favoring stricter gun laws, he sees a pro-Second Amendment Midwest that would be favorable to the industry
The gun enforcement bans made in Kansas could come under constitutional scrutiny, however. Robert Cottrol, a law professor at George Washington University, told HuffPost in April that the idea would not be exempt from federal interstate commerce laws since the gun industry is national. Hildabrand has said that the ban is constitutional since the guns would not leave one state.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) in late April advising him that the state's new gun law is unconstitutional, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Holder said that states could not override the federal government.
Missouri state Rep. Chrissy Sommer (R-St. Charles), the sponsor of that state's ban, did not return a call for comment.
Democrats in Missouri are largely opposed to pro-gun bills. State Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) described the Republicans as "wilder and wilder" and said Republicans are just focused on backing the National Rifle Association and trying to beat Kansas.
"I think it is a reaction to what Kansas has done with the taxes. It is all based on the hysteria that if we don't do the same thing as Kansas all the individuals will flee to Kansas," Newman said. "Add to that the birther tea party majority and the NRA influence with the majority party. They are trying to find every way available as they try to provide monetary advantages to the gun industry."
Newman said the only industry the bills will help is trial attorneys who will be fighting court battles on the issue. She also questioned what more Missouri Republicans can propose to be pro-gun.
"It is to the point now where they can say 'arm every child.' Will they think that's OK?" she said.