Missouri House committee debates contentious new gun bills

Missouri House committee debates contentious new gun bills
Posted at 10:52 AM, Feb 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-27 11:52:55-05

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Less than two weeks after one of the worst school shootings in American history, a Missouri House committee debated a slew of contentious new gun bills.

Monday's packed public hearing took place amid a renewed national push for gun control measures. Yet, all but one of the 27 gun bills currently in the Missouri Legislature were introduced before the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Arguments among the lawmakers often boiled down to whether Missouri's government should get out of the way of local leaders and property owners who want to regulate guns on their land, or whether it should let individuals carry weapons in more places.

"You, not living in Kansas City and not representing Kansas City, feel that you should tell me, and the city of Kansas City, and our locally elected leaders that if antifa wants to come with AR-15s onto the streets of our city, they should be allowed to do that?" Democratic Rep. Jon Carpenter of Kansas City asked a Republican lawmaker, referring to so-called "anti-fascist" protesters.

"I don't think that any municipality should be able to regulate the open carry" GOP Rep. Jered Taylor of Nixa responded.

The majority of the 27 bills are gun-control measures sponsored by Democrats and will likely face steep opposition in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Eight bills in total were discussed Monday. One would expand gun rights by allowing concealed weapons in hospitals, amusement parks, bars and other locations where guns are currently banned. Another would pre-emptively ban electronic systems that could potentially track individual guns.

One proposal would repeal the stand-your-ground statute the Legislature approved in 2016 that says people don't have a duty to retreat from danger in any place they are legally entitled to be present.

Several members of law enforcement spoke about how more guns in more places could make their jobs difficult.

Republican lawmakers and several witnesses repeatedly gave the same rebuttal to arguments for greater gun control: Tragedy can strike at any moment, and citizens should be able to protect themselves with deadly force.

At least one proposal has some bipartisan support. A bill to bar people with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from owning guns was introduced by GOP Rep. Donna Lichtenegger of Jackson and is co-sponsored by two Democrats. It aims to close a loophole in Missouri law created in 2016.

That bill and two similar proposals, however, were not part of Monday's hearing.