JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Missouri lawmaker has filed a bill that would allow any legal gun owner to carry a concealed weapon without a CCW permit, eliminating all criminal penalties associated with failing to obtain a permit for a concealed weapon.
Rep. Eric Burlison, a Springfield Republican, filed HB1250 last week. Burlison’s bill eliminates requirements to obtain a CCW permit before carrying a concealed weapon. Under current Missouri law, gun owners may legally “open carry” a weapon anywhere that does not expressly forbid the practice, but must obtain a CCW permit to carry their weapon in a concealed fashion, such as under a coat or in a purse.
“Right now we’re basically having people get a background check and training in order to put a piece of clothing over something,” Burlison told The Missouri Times. “Right now you can buy a gun and carry it, but you cannot conceal and carry it. The permit allows you to put clothing over a gun that you already have a constitutional right to carry.”
Missourians must currently undergo a background check through their local sheriff’s office and submit to brief gun training before legally carrying a concealed weapon in the state. Burlison likened the process to an arbitrary burden on a fundamental right, saying he’d originally crafted the bill a few years ago, but decided to offer it this year in light of the passage of Amendment 5 on the ballot in 2015.
Amendment 5 requires courts to apply a “strict scrutiny” analysis to gun-related regulation and states that gun ownership is an “inalienable right.”
Amendment 5 has already caused waves in Missouri. Earlier this month, a St. Louis judge ordered charges dropped against a suspect who was arrested after police received a tip that he was in illegal possession of a firearm. The suspect, Raymond Robinson, was a convicted felon.
A ruling issued by St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker states while Robinson has not been a “model citizen,” the state of Missouri has not presented a compelling governmental interest to deprive Robinson of that right and charge him with a crime. Burlison noted that the case was particularly ironic, given that Robinson’s previous felony charge was in 2003 for carrying a concealed weapon without a valid CCW permit.
Robinson’s case ignited opponents of the gun legislation, who said the ruling would allow for more felons to keep weapons.
“About a year ago, my office and others warned Sen. Kurt Schaefer and the Missouri General Assembly that a then-proposed Constitutional Amendment could raise new, deadly concerns for law-abiding citizens,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker in a piece she penned for the Kansas City Star. “Now I’m disheartened to see that those warnings may be coming true.”
But Burlison said the case is indicative of Missouri’s odd contradiction in gun law. If Burlison’s bill had been law in 2003, Robinson would have not been in violation of the law, and wouldn’t have been a convicted felon when arrested earlier this year with a weapon. In fact, Robinson’s case may provide just the judicial basis Burlison needs to avoid passing his bill altogether.
“Depending on how this case continues to be decided, this bill may become unnecessary,” Burlison said, indicating that if courts rule that CCW requirements violate a constitutional right to possess a weapon, his bill would not be needed.
Democrats and gun control supporters howl that Burlison’s bill will allow more potentially dangerous people without adequate training to carry weapons.
“There’s pretty widespread support for background checks and basic training before someone can be issued a conceal carry license,” said Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Kansas City. “I think those are common sense provisions we need to maintain. I think there should be background checks and a basic level of training across the board.”
But Burlison calls much of the objection a “false premise” and says it’s inaccurate to assume that a legal gun owner is “by-definition” unsafe. Criminals, Burlison said, will always have their weapons, and won’t care about the law. Democrats, on the other hand, see Burlison’s bill and increasing the accessibility of guns as inherently unsafe.
“While kids are being gunned down in our streets, it seems like the only solution House Republicans have is to throw more guns at the issue,” said Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, a Kansas City Democrat. “This is just another example of the extremist agenda that Missouri Republicans are pushing.”
Burlison says he’s gotten mixed responses on his bill. Some of his constituents, like the ones who have regularly asked him through social media to carry this very bill, have expressed gratitude. Others are concerned about public safety. Burlison chided the Kansas City Star for running an editorial referring to himself and his supporters as “gun nuts.”
“It’s hypocritical for a newspaper to use that kind of language,” Burlison said. “It’s also intellectually weak. Using intellectually weak, ad hominem arguments isn’t how a publication should be operating.”
Burlison, who is in his final term, has offered a handful of pieces of gun legislation before, including an effort early during his time in the legislature to lower the minimum eligible age for a CCW permit, and a now-infamous video in which Burlison took a gun control bill to a firing range and riddled it with bullets. The Springfield Republican is also mulling a potential run for the senate in 2016, something he said he hasn’t made up his mind on.
HB1250 has not yet been referred to committee, but Burlison said he’s hopeful the issue will come up following the legislative spring break next week.
Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @CMReischman