JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Four gun bills and a standing-room-only hearing was a definite sign that Monday’s meeting of the House General Laws committee was in for a long afternoon.
Prior to the meeting, the committee had specified that, with such issues on the table, only two minutes of testimony would be taken from opponents and supporters of the four pieces of legislation. Monday’s hearing went for three hours before adjourning.
Perhaps the most controversial of the bills presented before the committee was HB 96, sponsored by Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon.
Schroer’s bill discourages businesses from banning firearms by placing liability on them if anyone inside is hurt in the event of an attack or crime and a gun could have been used to protect them.
Opponents of the bill, from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and the Missouri Hotel and Lodging Association, as well as the Kansas City Chiefs, testified that the legislation would do little in terms of preventing attacks and that the decisions should lie with the business, not be forced upon them.
Schroer told the committee he didn’t think his bill would pass this session, due to the timing.
But the real story from the hearing was Rep. Donna Lichtenegger’s HB 1068.
Her legislation would restrict people with misdemeanors of domestic violence and undocumented immigrants from owning guns, a new version of HB 766, filed earlier in the session.
Lichtenegger told the committee how her mother had been a victim of domestic violence, and that she had also experienced domestic abuse.
She went on to tell the committee about how someone had broken into her apartment one night, and she had used a simple technique to scare the intruder away.
She snapped her fingers and threatened to shoot them if they didn’t leave. She said that advice had come from a law enforcement officer, noting that the sound is close enough to resemble the cocking of a gun when muffled.
One issue that committee members had with the legislation was the provision that allowed for a person who had been issued a court order a 24-hour window in which to sell or transfer their firearm.
Rep. Tracy McCreery said that window of time made her anxious, as it could instead give the offender time to act against the subject who sought a restraining order.
The representative told the committee it was important to get this legislation correct, and that was why she wanted to try and work with them to make it right.
Lichtenegger told the committee that she had been working with a lobbyist from the National Rifle Association in order to improve her legislation.
But while Lichtenegger had said that someone from the NRA may be able to provide some answers, no one else testified.
When the committee asked if the NRA was present, the group’s representative was pointed out. McCreery asked to talk to him after the hearing, but no audible response was heard.
HB 630, presented by Rep. Jered Taylor, was the one that had drawn in most of the crowd, namely members of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots movement demanding reasonable solutions to address the culture of gun violence in the U.S.
Taylor’s bill would prohibit where firearms can be carried, including schools, buses, police stations, courthouses, and airports. A strong number of opponents also came forward against that bill, including lobbyist Jay Bardgett, who testified on behalf of stadiums, including that of the St. Louis Cardinals. He noted that alcohol and weapons are typically not a great combination.
In the end, after three hours spent on the bills, the committee adjourned for the 4 p.m. start in the House. Chairman Robert Cornejo said the committee would continue hearing testimony on Taylor’s bill later on Monday night.
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.