Beginning in January, Missouri is set to become the 25th state with an active ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.
Although Missouri Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the bill earlier this year, his veto was overruled Wednesday after the state legislature passed Senate Bill 656.
The bill includes several provisions to gun measures, one changing how victims can defend themselves.
What is ‘Stand Your Ground?’
As long as one is in a location authorized to be in, whether it be a home or a public place, one now has the right to defend themselves with a firearm without retreating first, as long as he or she reasonably feels their life is being threatened with deadly force.
"You used to have a duty to retreat,” said John Picerno, a criminal defense attorney in Kansas City.
Picerno has dealt with several clients who have claimed self-defense.
He says the new provision is good.
“It's one of the few laws in Missouri that's actually very good for the citizens. Not only does it provide the accused with those particular rights but it places the burden on the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not act in lawful self-defense," he said.
Why some are in favor or ‘Stand Your Ground?’
“Your ability to calmly reason things out is going to go away. Fight or fight is going to kick in. And to have to stand in the court of law and try to justify why you didn't run away, to me, is an extra burden on the victim and is an advantage for the assailant,” said Bill Vandenbos, NRA member and firearm instructor from Lee’s Summit.
“When you get in the court of law, the duty to retreat actually gave an advantage to the assailant. I think this takes that advantage away,” he said.
Why are some very critical of Senate Bill 656?
Arguably, the biggest opposition of Senate Bill 656 has been the measure which eliminates permits for conceal and carry.
Missouri will now be one of nearly a dozen states that allows Constitutional Carry.
By 2017, anyone 19 years of age and older will be able to conceal and carry a firearm without a permit or training.
“This all about appeasing the NRA. It's all about appeasing the gun manufacturers. it's all about money. And it's all about politics. It has nothing to do with safety. It has nothing to do with the second amendment and it certainly has nothing to do with decreasing gun violence in cities,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James at a press conference Tuesday. Rather than looking for solutions to our gun violence problem, our legislature is poised to double down on stupid and override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 656."
According to Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp, the county has denied more than 900 people the right to carry a gun since the inception of the Conceal and Carry Permit Program, which includes people with felonies. Twenty-four have been denied so far this year.
Josh Helmuth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org