A solidly detailed explanation of how SAPA was stopped in the Missouri House in the 2014 session…From Ron Calzone:
Missouri has always had pretty good constitutional protection for our right to keep and bear arms.
Article I, Section 23 is Missouri’s equivalent to the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment. It’s designed to limit the government’s power – especially the legislature’s power — to pass laws that restrict gun rights. Constitutionally restricting the state legislature’s ability to infringe on gun rights is especially important, since other government entities, like city and counties, largely derive their powers from the legislature.
Imagine what could happen if the Missouri Constitution was amended to SPECIFICALLY EXEMPT the state legislature from Art. I, Sec. 23 and allow it to pass laws that infringed on the the right to keep and bear arms.
That’s exactly what the House of Representatives voted to do on the last day of the 2013 legislative session.
Now, before you get too worked up please understand that the measure they voted on DID NOT PASS the Senate. It is NOT in the Constitution now!
I do, however, want to use this terrible vote by the House to demonstrate just how “broken” the legislative process is in Jefferson City.
Ironically, the bad language was an amendment to what started out as a very good bill, SJR 14. That was the 2013 version of the 2014 SJR 36, which became Amendment 5 and Missouri voters overwhelmingly ratified on the August ballot, securing for Missourians what are probably the strongest gun rights in the country.
I’ll explain the political back story in a minute, but first look at the terrible amendment the House adopted and then passed with a vote of 115 to 38:
House Amendment No. 1
AMEND Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Joint Resolution No. 14, Page 1, Section 23, Line 4, by inserting after the period on said line, “.”, the following:
” The right of every citizen to possess, purchase, reload, or manufacture ammunition and to possess, purchase, or manufacture mechanical parts or other articles essential to the proper functioning of arms shall not be infringed or the amounts limited.“; and
Further amend said bill, page, and section, Line 7, by inserting after the period, on said line, the following:
” Nothing in this section shall be construed to invalidate acts of the General Assembly, which create criminal penalties for the unlawful use of firearms.“; and
Further amend said resolution, Page 2, Section B, Lines 5-8, by deleting all of said lines and inserting in lieu thereof, the following:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to include a declaration that the right to keep and bear arms is a unalienable right, that the state government is obligated to uphold that right, and that every citizen is guaranteed the right to possess, purchase, and manufacture firearms, parts, and ammunition?”; and
Further amend said bill by amending the title, enacting clause, and intersectional references accordingly.
The part highlighted in yellow is the offensive clause. It doesn’t take a Kansas City lawyer to realize that the House voted to gut our right to keep and bear arms!
They didn’t mean to do it – they didn’t realize what they were voting on – but they did do it!
The whole purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to “invalidate acts of” Congress when they infringe on gun rights. And the same is supposed to be true of Missouri Constitution’s Article I, Section 23 with respect to state and local law-makers..
Had it become part of the Constitution, the phrase, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to invalidate acts of the General Assembly, which create criminal penalties for the unlawful use of firearms.”, would have allowed the state legislature to define “unlawful use of firearms” any way they chose and then create criminal penalties – all with no restriction by the Missouri Constitution.
With that in the Constitution, they could have passed a statute that defined “unlawful use” as owning anything other than a muzzle loading musket.
Of course, the 2nd Amendment would have still provided protection, but that’s not the point.
The point is that the General Assembly, especially the House, is often times quite dysfunctional and prone to bone-headed mistakes like this!
Now, before you find that your Rep voted for this liberty-stealing amendment and decide to tar and feather him or her, please read the Rest of the Story…
What happened that May 17, 2013, afternoon was the culmination of petty political posturing for the 2016 race for Attorney General.
To piece the puzzle together, first look at the Actions page for SJR 14. Notice that it passed the Senate and was given to the House on April 4th. That’s 1 ½ months before the end of the 2013 legislative session and plenty of time for a bill to finish the process.
So why did it take until the very last day of session to actually get to the House floor?
It was because the Speaker of the House, Tim Jones, was contemplating running for A.G. against the the sponsor of SJR 14, Sen. Kurt Schaefer. If Schaefer managed to get a landmark constitutional amendment on the ballot and if it was widely adopted by voters, that would be quite a feather in his cap. Of course, all of that became true with SJR 36 in 2014.
Tim Jones couldn’t let his potential political opponent get a leg up on him in terms of gun rights street cred, so he delayed SJR 14 as long as possible.
Delay wasn’t enough, though, Jones needed to kill the bill.
That’s not hard at all to do if you’re the Speaker and there’s only a few hours left in the year’s legislative session. All you have to do is amend the bill – any amendment will do – and send it back to the Senate. There will almost always be an accommodating senator from the opposing party who will threaten a filibuster and the bill will get pulled from the floor.
That’s exactly what happened with SJR 14 on that last day of the 2013 session, but not before some other nefarious deeds.
At the time Amendment 1 to SJR 14 was offered, virtually everyone in the House knew what was going on – including the fact that amending the bill was its death knell. The pro-gun Reps – and that’s the vast majority of them — were warned that the amendment was designed to kill the bill and to vote no when asked if the amendment should be adopted.
No debate was allowed. Majority Floor Leader John Diehl called the “previous question”, a parliamentary move to cut off further debate.
That’s right, the Missouri House of Representatives was considering an amendment that could affect our right to keep and bear arms forever – and John Diehl wouldn’t allow any more debate!
Even without debate when the voice vote was called, a clear majority of them DID vote no, at least from the hearing perspective of everyone I talked to. But Speaker Tim Jones was at the dias and he called the voice vote for the “yeas”.
As you can see from the journal entry, the next action was another call for the “previous question”. There would have still been time for them to slow down and with more deliberation consider what they had just voted on. They could have reconsidered the amendment they had just adopted and backed it out.
Nope – good legislation wasn’t the objective – the objective of the people in control was to keep Kurt Schaefer from gaining any 2nd Amendment street cred.
Instead of acting responsibly, the bill handler made a motion to “Third read and pass” the bill. A roll call vote was taken and SJR 14 passed, liberty-stealing amendment and all, by a vote of 115 to 38.
SJR 14 was, then, sent to the Senate. To pass, it needed their approval of the House’s changes.
SAVED IN THE SENATE
From the Senate Journal record, we see that Floor Leader Ron Richard allowed SJR 14 to the floor for debate in those busy final hours. At first, Senator Schaefer made a motion to adopt what he may not of realized, at first, was a bad House amendment, but he withdrew his motion and moved that the Senate refuse to concur with House Amendment 1 and request that the House accept the original Senate version. (See the Senate Journal here.)
By withdrawing his adoption motion, Sen. Schaefer may have saved our constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
That gave the anti-gun Senators the opportunity to threaten a filibuster, which promptly kills any bill when there are only a few hours left in the year’s legislative session.. Sen. Schaefer withdrew his “refuse to concur” motion and SJR 14 died for good.
Of course, the good news is Sen. Schaefer filed SJR 36 for the 2014 session, and it ultimately was adopted by Missouri voters as Amendment 5. Frankly, it is much stronger than SJR 14, and our right to keep and bear arms is better protected than it would have been with SJR 14, even without the bad amendment.
All’s well that ends well, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the experience and hold the blunderers accountable.
THE BROKEN PROCESS MUST BE FIXED
I honestly don’t think that any of the Reps who voted for the bad amendment in SJR 14 knew just how bad it was. Look at the record – most of the yes votes are stalwart defenders of the 2nd Amendment.
And the Rep who actually offered the bad amendment is one of the strongest supporters of our gun rights. He was trying to make SJR 14 more comprehensive by adding “ammunition and accessories” – I believe the offensive clause wasn’t even his idea.
But he got used by some of the leaders of the House, as did all the other Reps who voted for SJR 14.
They should be infuriated.
They should demand that changes be made in the way the House conducts itself. Here are some things that would constitute a good start:
- Put an end to heavy-handed leadership tactics.
- Remove most of the power from the Speaker and Floor Leader and distribute it to all the Reps, each of whom represent the same number of Missouri citizens..
- Stop the “feeding frenzy” that occurs the last two weeks of the legislative session, when legislation moves too fast to be properly vetted.
- Expose and vote out office legislators who selfishly put their own career ahead of good public policy.