JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Legislature sent the governor a bill Wednesday that would expand gun rights and declare all federal gun regulations unenforceable, in a response to President Obama's push for gun control legislation.
The Republican-led Legislature passed the measure hoping to shield the state from federal proposals that would ban assault weapons and expand background checks. But the U.S. Senate's defeat of a background check expansion three weeks ago did nothing to assuage the fears of Missouri Republicans who pressed forward with their legislation.
The Missouri House voted 118-36 Wednesday to send the bill to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. The Senate passed the measure earlier this month.
Supporters argue the measure protects the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and it includes language condemning the theft and illegal use of firearms. The measure's sponsor, Rep. Doug Funderburk, said his aim is to ensure Missouri is the only regulator when it comes to firearms.
"We have the authority to enforce these laws. We are trying to position us so that we in this state can have safer neighborhoods," said Funderburk, R-St. Peters.
Opposition came mostly from House Democrats who said the measure would increase access to guns and make schools less safe. They argued the measure doesn't address gun violence in urban areas.
"I don't understand why this body continues to turn their back and ignore gun violence in order to increase access to weapons," said Rep. Stacey Newman, D-University City.
In addition to declaring federal gun laws unenforceable, the bill would allow concealed weapons to be carried by designated school personnel in school buildings. It would allow appointed "protection officers" to carry concealed weapons as long as they have a valid permit and register with the state Department of Public Safety. The officers would also be required to complete a training course.
The bill would also allow people with a firearms permit to openly carry weapons less than 16 inches in length even in localities that prohibit open-carry of firearms.
Privacy rights of gun owners have been a hot topic this legislative session after lawmakers learned the state Highway Patrol shared the list of concealed weapons permit holders with a federal agent in the Social Security Administration.
The legislation passed Wednesday would prevent people from publishing any identifying information on gun owners. A person who publishes such information would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor. It also would prevent doctors or nurses from being required to ask patients about firearm ownership.
The measure would also lower the minimum age required to obtain a concealed weapons permit from 21 to 19.
Even if Gov. Jay Nixon signs the legislation, it may face legal hurdles that will prevent its implementation. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Kansas last month saying the federal government would challenge its recent gun law. The Kansas legislation would prohibit federal regulation of guns that are manufactured and remain in the state. It would also criminalize the enforcement of federal gun control laws.
Missouri lawmakers are also considering a constitutional amendment that would declare gun rights "inalienable."