JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri lawmaker is proposing to send colleagues to prison for introducing gun control legislation — a plan that even its sponsor acknowledges has no chance of passage but nonetheless highlights the increasingly strident tone of gun measures in Missouri's generally pro-gun Legislature.
Rep. Mike Leara said Tuesday that he considers his bill a statement of principle. It would make lawmakers guilty of a felony punishable by up to four years in prison if they introduce legislation restricting gun rights.
"I have no illusions about the bill making it through the legislative process, but I want it to be clear that the Missouri House will stand in defense of the people's constitutional right to keep and bear arms," Leara, a Republican from suburban St. Louis, said in a written statement. He declined further comment.
Since last year's deadly mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut, state and federal lawmakers have grappled with gun legislation. President Barack Obama has proposed an assault weapons ban, background checks and restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines. But Missouri's Republican-led Legislature has taken a different approach — more guns, not less.
State Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, called the measure "unconstitutional" and said she would go directly to prison if the bill passes. Newman is the sponsor of a measure that would require guns to be sold by a licensed dealer and force that dealer to conduct a background check.
Even one of Leara's fellow Republicans said he probably wouldn't support the bill.
"Everybody should have a right to introduce bills, even bad ones," said state Rep. Kevin Engler, of Farmington, a former state senator who has sponsored National Rifle Association-supported legislation in previous years.
Leara's measure comes less than a week after St. Louis-area House Democrats introduced legislation containing an assault weapons ban. That bill would require owners of semi-automatic weapons to surrender, destroy or send their guns to another state within 90 days of the measure's passage.
One lawmaker has questioned the wisdom of proposing legislation to the ideological extreme of both political parties.
"(Leara's bill) has as much chance of passing as (the assault weapons ban). Highlights the problem with proposing bills to get attention," tweeted Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City.
The proposal criminalizing gun control legislation comes as a Missouri House committee was scheduled to consider a Republican proposal Tuesday that would nullify all federal gun laws. A Senate panel is also expected to conduct a hearing Tuesday on a state constitutional amendment broadening gun rights.