Missouri Press Association: Reporters could take fire if nullification bill goes into effect

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— Ahead of a Thursday meeting in Kansas City, the Missouri Press Association raised alarm bells among its members about the real possibility that the General Assembly may override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that aims to nullify federal gun rules.

Jean Maneke, a counselor for the MPA Legal Hotline, penned a letter to members on Wednesday claiming a “real possibility of big trouble just ahead” if Nixon’s veto is overridden.

Maneke’s concern, she wrote, is over the bill’s Section 571.011.1., which states: “No person or entity shall publish the name, address, or other identifying information of any individual who owns a firearm or who is an applicant for or holder of any license, certificate, permit, or endorsement which allows such individual to own, acquire, possess, or carry a firearm.”

Essentially, the section appears to make publishing the name of any gun owner a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, and that fine could be increased to up to $20,000 if whoever published the information derived financial gain from it.

“That should concern you. We don’t know what is going to happen in terms of prosecuting offenders of this new law. If you are a gun owner, and you write a story that carries your byline, will you be prosecuted? If you publish a story about a member of your community who owns a gun, will you be prosecuted,” she asked. “Nothing in this law says you are excused if the person gives you permission to use his name! The publication of the name alone means you have committed a crime.”

The bill, named the “Second Amendment Preservation Act” by its supporters, includes several other provisions that aim to nullify federal gun rules – going as far as attempting to make it a crime for federal law enforcement authorities to enforce federal gun rules. Last month, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association told PoliticMo they do not support the bill because it would prohibit “federal officials from enforcing federal law in states.”

The provision criticized by the MPA came in response to a newspaper in New York publishing a list of conceal carry weapons permit owners, the bills supporters have said. In response to an inquiry at a press conference at the end of session in May, House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, told reporters: “The First Amendment has limitations like every other amendment in the Constitution.”

Maneke’s notion that the bill could be overridden is a legitimate one: The bill originally earned support from 12 Democrats – seven votes more than required for an override.

State Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, was the lone Republican dissenter in the body, claiming some of the same objections echoed by, Attorney General Chris Koster, who penned a letter to the General Assembly on Tuesday noting that it was his opinion that some of the law may be struck down as unconstitutional. (Koster did not delve into a potential First Amendment, freedom of the press violation, as claimed by the Missouri Press Association’s attorney.)