Very Important Issue!
Jefferson City, MO – January 7, 2016
As early as January 12, the Missouri Supreme Court will render opinions on three cases that may change forever the way our state courts deal with our most fundamental and sacred rights.
Amendment 5, the gun rights amendment overwhelmingly adopted by Missouri voters in 2014, is at the center of the controversy. With that amendment, the people of Missouri declare that the right to bear arms is “unalienable.” What’s more important, they added to the Constitution clear requirements that the courts use the most stringent standard of review, “strict scrutiny,” when evaluating laws that restrict those rights.
When a law is under strict scrutiny review, the court is obligated to presume that it is unconstitutional and place the burden of proof that it is actually constitutional on the state. To be held constitutional, the state has to prove that the law is necessary to fulfill a compelling state interest, that is is narrowly tailored to accomplish that interest, and that it uses methods that are the least intrusive to the fundamental right at issue.
Amendment 5 made it clear that the right to bear arms is on the same level as freedom of speech and religion and of the press, so anything the Missouri Supreme Court might do to undermine the protection of gun rights also undermines those other seminal rights.
The three cases currently before the Supreme Court involve men who had previously been convicted of non-violent felonies, have served their time, and have now been charged with violating Missouri’s law prohibiting felons from possessing firearms. Amendment 5 makes a distinction between violent and non-violent felons, allowing the legislature to only take away the right to bear arms from violent felons. The problem is that Section 571.070 RSMo, as amended in 2008, makes no such distinction when it prohibits ALL convicted felons from possessing firearms.
Based on Missouri’s Charge Code, there are over 11,000 ways a person can become a felon. A large percentage of the crimes are not what most people would consider felonies or even any sort of threat to others.
For instance, according to Chapter 407.1138.2 RSMo it is a felony violation “for any person that sends an unsolicited commercial electronic mail message to fail to use the exact characters ‘ADV:’ as the first four characters in the subject line of the unsolicited commercial electronic mail message.”
To put this in perspective, consider that most any court would use the strict scrutiny test to rule unconstitutional a law that strips a citizen of his unalienable, fundamental right to free speech, or religion, or press just because that citizen didn’t include “ADV:” in the subject line of an email.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court has found the right to bear arms to be “fundamental”, and Amendment 5 declares it an “unalienable” right and requires the courts to use a strict scrutiny review, courts should consistently find unconstitutional any law that strips a citizen of that right simply because he failed to start the subject line of an email with “ADV:”. Missouri’s felon in possession law is such a law, since it fails to distinguish between violent and non-violent felons.
If the Missouri Supreme Court rules against the three non-violent felons in the coming weeks, they will be gutting Amendment 5 and placing all of our fundamental rights on thin ice.
Perhaps even worse, if the Supreme Court ignores the people’s constitutional demand that they use strict scrutiny when evaluating gun laws, they will be shamelessly tossing out the most fundamental principle of our Constitutional Republic – that is, that the government exists only at the consent of the governed.
The Supreme Court’s next two potential decision dates are January 12th and 26th.
Missouri First, Inc, is a think tank devoted to promoting constitutional governance and economic freedom.