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Mo. House votes to override veto of gun bill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Missouri measure attempting to nullify some federal gun control laws fell a single vote short of enactment Wednesday as the leaders of the state’s Republican-led Senate joined with Democrats to prevent a veto override.

Senators voted 22-to-12 for the veto override, coming up just shy of the required two-thirds majority. Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey and majority leader Ron Richard split from the rest of the GOP caucus that they lead to instead sustain Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto.

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The override attempt had passed the Republican-led House 109-to-49, getting the bare minimum number of votes needed.

The legislation declared that any federal policies that ‘‘infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms’’ shall be invalid in Missouri. It would have allowed state misdemeanor charges to be brought against federal authorities who attempted to enforce those laws or anyone who published the identity of a gun owner.

‘‘My love of the Second Amendment doesn’t trump my love of the First Amendment,’’ Dempsey, of St. Charles, told reporters after the vote. ‘‘We need to work harder on crafting the legislation.’’

Dempsey and Richard, of Joplin, both also cited concerns about how the legislation could have affected local police and prosecutors.

Nixon vetoed the gun bill in July while warning that it infringed on First Amendment free-speech rights and also violated the supremacy clause of the US Constitution, which gives precedence to federal laws over conflicting state ones. He stuck by those assertions Wednesday.

‘‘It’s unconstitutional, it’s unsafe and it’s unnecessary,’’ Nixon said at a news conference before the Senate vote.

Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, also raised concerns last week about the ramifications of a potential veto override. He said a court probably would strike down the nullification provision but could leave intact other sections of the bill that could potentially prevent local police from cooperating with federal authorities on crimes involving guns. He said the bill also could open Missouri police to potential lawsuits from criminals if they refer gun-related cases to federal authorities.

Senator Brian Nieves, a Republican from Washington, Mo., accused Koster of lying about the bill in a last-moment smear campaign that he said ‘‘literally scares the bejesus out of our great law enforcement community.’’

‘‘This fight ain’t over, it ain’t over, it ain’t over,’’ Nieves said. ‘‘We’ll be back to visit it again’’ in the 2014 session.

The gun bill was one of the highest profile measures among Nixon’s 33 vetoes this year. Legislators had already overridden six vetoes Wednesday, the most in a single year in Missouri since 1833 when a different constitution only required a simple majority.

But lawmakers also failed to override Nixon’s veto of a sweeping income tax cut, giving him a victory on one of the most hard-fought measures.

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