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NRA makes SB 656 their top national priority as debate comes down to the wire

Urban officials increase push for legislators to sustain the veto

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The National Rifle Association will make the override of Senate Bill 656 their top priority in the country this week as the omnibus gun bill continues to gain momentum as the most high-profile legislation at stake on Wednesday.

The pro-gun group will launch a once-in-a-decade lobbying effort to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that has drawn fervent support and opposition from all corners of the country.

As part of their efforts, the NRA has flown in several staffers to help lobby lawmakers, launched television ads, and sent mailers to key targeted districts. Whit O’Daniel, who lobbies on behalf of the NRA, said he’s been texting the entire Republican caucus to inform them that the NRA ranks SB 656 as the biggest priority in the country. It’s also their biggest priority in Missouri since 2003.

The NRA has also launched a digital ad campaign supporting SB 656. The 30-second ad tells the story of a woman who fended off a violent attack with a firearm. The ad will run on digital platforms throughout Missouri.

“The need for self-defense can arise in a second. Politicians do not have the right to restrict personal protection options available in that second. Defend your right to defend yourself, and urge your legislators to override the veto of SB 656,” said Erin Luper, Missouri liaison for the the NRA.

Their involvement comes as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, the most active group campaigning against the bill, plans to rally and be present in the Capitol during veto session. The group, backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety, said they expect more than 100 volunteers from Moms Demand to join gun owners, former law enforcement officers and other gun safety advocates for a rally and advocacy day.

Included among the rally’s featured speakers are Kyle Boyer, a concealed carry training instructor, who wrote an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opposing the bill, and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department veteran Sgt. Charles Lowe.

On Sunday’s This Week in Missouri Politics, Robert Knodell, executive director of the House Republican Campaign Committee, called on Koster to lead his party to override the veto to burnish his gun bonafides.

“We’ll see if Koster is able to lead his party in that direction or if he fails in that effort,” Knodell said.

The bill passed along party lines in the Senate, and even Democratic opponents in the House say the veto will be decided in the upper chamber.

“Frankly, I think we should be keeping our eyes on the Senate on that front,” said Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, on Sunday’s This Week in Missouri Politics.

But as legislators started arriving in Jefferson City this week, that thinking may have changed. Some whip counts show the bill right at the number needed in the House to override the veto, some counts fluctuating. Before it even gets to the House, it has to be overridden in the Senate.

On that front, volunteers for Moms Demand have been targeting senators in their Twitter campaign to sustain the veto.

In tweets to senators, they write about the results of a SurveyUSA poll, commissioned by Everytown, showing 86 percent of Missourians want permits for concealed carry in the state. The poll also found that 63 percent of Missourians were less likely to vote for a senator that had voted to remove current permit requirements.

But the legislation’s supporters have also been active on social media, including radio host Dana Loesch and Ryan Johnson, president of the Missouri Alliance for Freedom.

In the state’s urban cores of Kansas City and St. Louis, officials have increased their pushes to sustain the veto. St. Louis chief of police Sam Dotson penned an op-ed in the Post-Dispatch urging legislators to sustain the veto.

In Kansas City on Tuesday, Mayor Sly James and other city and county officials held a press conference at the Rose Brooks Center, a domestic violence shelter.

“SB 656 is a crippling piece of legislation that puts the lives of women and children in danger,” James said, calling the bill “ludicrous and stupid on its face.”

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp also called the bill dangerous and urged legislators to sustain the veto.

“Since the inception of the CCW program, Jackson County has denied over 900 people the right to carry a gun. …This law would allow anyone to go get a gun and carry it and they never have to shoot it until they use it,” he said. “They’re running scared down there [in Jefferson City] and they need to stand up and do the right thing.”