By Kevin Murphy
JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - In a defeat for gun rights advocates, Missouri lawmakers failed on Wednesday to override Governor Jay Nixon's veto of a bill that would have prevented federal enforcement of gun laws in the state.
The Republican-led state Senate voted 22-12 to override the bill, falling one vote short of the two-thirds' majority needed. Earlier in the day, the Republican-controlled state House voted 109-49 to override the bill, reaching exactly the required number.
The bill would have allowed the state to prosecute federal officials who attempted to enforce federal gun laws in Missouri. It also would have allowed suspected criminals to sue federal agents who arrest them on gun charges.
"The fight ain't over. We'll be back to visit it again and again," said Republican state Senator Brian Nieves.
Opponents of the bill said it undermined enforcement of gun laws. They also pointed to concerns voiced by police chiefs and sheriffs across the state.
"The reality is, this bill says that every federal law, whether reasonable or not, cannot be enforced in Missouri," Democratic Representative Mike Colona said during debate on the state House floor.
Passage of the bill in Missouri would have put state Attorney General Chris Koster in the position of having to defend it if the measure were challenged in court, even though he and fellow Democrat Nixon believe it is unconstitutional.
Republican Representative Doug Funderburk, who sponsored the bill, said Missouri gun owners should not be at the mercy of laws passed in Washington.
"We have a chance to stand together at a time when our federal government cannot even pass a budget," Funderburk said.
Missouri's bill would have allowed trained school protection officers to carry concealed weapons on school property. The bill would also have lowered the legal age to carry a concealed weapon to 19 from 21.
Lawmakers introduced similar measures in about 30 states this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Earlier this year in neighboring Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback signed a law to prevent any guns or ammunition in the state from being subject to federal regulations. In April, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote Brownback that the new state law was unconstitutional.
A federal appeals court in August ruled that the Montana Firearms Freedom Act was trumped by federal law and therefore invalid.
(Editing by Brendan O'Brien and Peter Cooney)