Connecting state and local government leaders
The NRA is among those pushing for lawmakers to reject Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto.
With Missouri lawmakers set to decide Wednesday whether to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of controversial legislation that would relax state gun laws, local leaders in the Kansas City metro area derided the measure, characterizing it as misguided and dangerous.
But their misgivings seem unlikely to hold much sway when the General Assembly convenes in Jefferson City. Pat Thomas, chief of staff for one of the bill’s lead sponsors, Republican state Sen. Brian Munzlinger, expressed confidence by phone Tuesday that lawmakers would override the veto. She declined to say how many lawmakers had committed to voting against it.
Nixon, a Democrat, said in a June veto message he disapproved of Senate Bill 656 because it would eliminate requirements for people to obtain training, a background check and a permit before they were allowed to carry concealed firearms. He cited additional concerns as well.
“Senate Bill 656 is a crippling piece of legislation,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who believes the bill would pose domestic violence risks and hazards for police.
The firearm bill won strong support in the Republican-dominated General Assembly.
Ongoing disagreements about the bill highlight some of the rifts that can arise over gun policy between leaders in urban areas and state legislators in Missouri. Geographically the Show-Me State is largely rural, although much of its population is concentrated in major cities.
"The St. Louis police department would like to have more gun regulation,” said Anders Walker, a professor at the St. Louis University School of Law who studies intersections between constitutional and criminal law. “The legislature has moved the opposite way. And we've got to assume that’s because rural folks are not in favor of increased regulation of guns.”
Munzlinger, the state senator who sponsored the bill, disputes the governor’s claims about the legislation undermining gun safety. “I think the governor has mischaracterized the bill,” he said in an emailed statement Tuesday.
“SB 656 leaves the current conceal carry permit process in place and expands the options for Missouri’s law abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families,” added the lawmaker, who represents a district in Missouri’s northeast corner bordering Illinois and Iowa.
Urging constituents to contact their legislators in support of the veto override, the National Rifle Association took a similar stance, arguing that “SB 656 will not remove the current concealed carry permitting system, and any claim that it would is patently false.”
Scott Holste, director of communications for Nixon’s office, offered perspective on the governor’s view of the bill in an email.
“People can still get a permit if they want one,” he wrote Tuesday, but they “would no longer be required to have a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon any place where you could carry openly.” He added: “The bill decriminalizes carrying a concealed weapon.”
Walker, the law professor, described the concealed carry permitting language in the measure as “a little confusing.”
The legislation also includes “stand-your-ground” provisions that allow people to defend themselves with a gun, even without trying first to retreat. And there’s language that expands a person’s right to defend their home, also known as the state’s “castle doctrine.”
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp was among those who criticized the bill on Tuesday.
He is troubled over the prospect of people carrying firearms with less instruction than is now required. “This law would allow anybody to go get a gun, carry it, and never have to fire the weapon until they think it’s necessary to use it, without any education whatsoever,” he said.
Sharp added: “This is a bad, bad bill, just for that reason alone.”
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker also disapproved of the measure. “I haven’t had a legislator in Jefferson City that can tell me how this bill makes us safer,” she said. “It doesn’t”
Mayor Sly James zeroed-in on objections he had over age provisions in the bill.
“You can carry a concealed weapon under this bill with no training, no permit, at the age of 19,” he said. “Now that’s just ludicrous and stupid on its face.”
The mayor, who won a second term in a landslide election last year, challenged state lawmakers in favor of the bill to join him on a police ride along in Kansas City. “If they’re so interested in putting guns in the hands of 19 year-olds,” he said, “let’s go out and meet some 19 year-olds, and you can come see them face to face, and let’s see how safe you feel.”
Bill Lucia is a Reporter at Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington D.C.
NEXT STORY: Gov. Jerry Brown Vetoes “Tampon Tax” Bill