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Governor vetoes bill nullifying gun restrictions

by Associated Press | April 23, 2021 at 12:58 p.m.
FILE - In this April 8, 2020 photo, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson gives the State of the State in the Senate chamber of the state Capitol in Little Rock. (Tommy Metthe/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP, File)

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday vetoed legislation that would prohibit local police from enforcing federal gun laws, saying the measure would jeopardize law enforcement and the public.

The Republican governor rejected the measure sent him by the majority-GOP Legislature that would have imposed criminal fines on state and local officers for assisting with enforcing federal firearms restrictions that the bill's backers say infringe on the Second Amendment.

The Legislature could still enact the bill by overriding Hutchinson's veto through a simple majority vote.

[DOCUMENT: Letter from governor on SB298 »]

"The partnership between state and federal law enforcement officers is essential for the safety of Arkansas citizens," Hutchinson wrote in a letter to legislative leaders. "This bill will break that partnership and put the safety of Arkansans at risk."

Lawmakers in more than a dozen states have introduced similar bills this year seeking to nullify federal gun laws. Arizona earlier this month enacted a nullification measure similar to the one Hutchinson vetoed. And several states passed nullification laws under then-President Barack Obama, but judges have found them unconstitutional.

Hutchinson, a former federal prosecutor and Homeland Security official, said the bill would jeopardize hundreds of federal criminal cases and could allow offenders to sue Arkansas law enforcement for assisting federal officers.

"I will continue to push back against federal overreach and regulation, but criminalizing cooperation with the federal government is not the solution," he wrote.

The veto is Hutchinson's latest rebuke of legislative Republicans, who have sent him a series of "culture wars" measures. The governor earlier this month vetoed legislation banning gender confirming treatments for transgender youth, but lawmakers easily overrode him the next day and enacted the ban.


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