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Jim Sowash stands in his gun shop near Stover, Mo. Sowash signed a letter urging Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to sign a bill nullifying federal gun laws.

States grow defiant against federal law

Try to nullify hated rules on guns, marijuana

– Imagine the scenario: A federal agent attempts to arrest someone for illegally selling a machine gun. Instead, the federal agent is arrested and charged in a state court with the crime of enforcing federal gun laws.

Farfetched? Not as much as you might think.

The scenario would become conceivable if legislation passed by Missouri’s Republican-led legislature is signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

The Missouri legislation is perhaps the most extreme example of a states’ rights movement that has been spreading across the nation. States are increasingly adopting laws that purport to nullify federal laws – setting up intentional legal conflicts, directing local police not to enforce federal laws and, in rare cases, even threatening criminal charges for federal agents who dare to do their jobs.

An Associated Press analysis found that about four-fifths of the states now have enacted local laws that directly reject or ignore federal laws on marijuana use, gun control, health insurance requirements and identification standards for driver’s licenses.

The recent trend began in Democratic-leaning California with a 1996 medical marijuana law and has proliferated lately in Republican strongholds like Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback this spring became the first to sign a measure threatening felony charges against federal agents who enforce certain firearms laws in his state.

The Missouri bill would declare it a misdemeanor crime but would apply more broadly to all federal gun laws and regulations that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter in late April to the Kansas governor warning that the federal government is willing to go to court over the new law.

“Kansas may not prevent federal employees and officials from carrying out their official responsibilities,” Holder wrote.

Missouri’s governor has not said whether he will sign or veto the bill nullifying federal gun laws. Thousands of people have sent online messages to the governor’s office about the legislation.

Signing the measure “will show other states how to resist the tyranny of federal bureaucrats who want to rob you of your right to self-defense,” said one message, signed by Jim and Arlena Sowash, who own a gun shop in rural Stover, Mo.

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