JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Three bills seeking to expand Second Amendment rights were heard in the House Emerging Issues Committee Monday evening. Reps. Robert Cornejo, Eric Burlison and Joe Don McGaugh all filed bills that sought to enhance the rights of gun owners, but Burlison’s “constitutional carry” legislation received the most debate.
Burlison stated that his bill would enable citizens to choose how they carry a sidearm if they choose to do so.
“This bill will not allow someone to carry anywhere where they cannot currently carry,” he said. “It will allow someone to choose how they carry. If you have the right to open carry, this law would allow you to conceal.”
Jeremy Cady of the Missouri Alliance for Freedom used the example that when he open-carried his weapon in Springfield, Mo., if he had thrown on a coat that happened to conceal the weapon, he would not be held liable for carrying concealed without a license.
Democrats by-and-large opposed the measure, notably Rep. Jeremy LaFaver and Rep. Mike Colona.
“This would allow concealed carry for anybody at all,” LaFaver said. Burlison noted that was true so long as it was in a place where that person could legally open-carry.
“People currently not required to have any training, they would be able to conceal without any training,” LaFaver continued. Burlison argued that limitations, including fees and training, infringed on constitutional rights.
“We should not be placing a financial burden on someone just to practice their Second Amendment rights,” Burlison said.
Colona was a bit more tongue-in-cheek in his criticism, to put it lightly. He suggested an amendment to Burlison’s bill stating that all regulations and restrictions on gun ownership should be removed, given that he was tired of arguing these pieces of legislation after hearing them for eight years.
“Forget about the compromises that both parties came to when they passed this,” Colona said. “Let’s do away with all the rules and regulations… [and] allow guns everywhere. Let’s finish this so when you’re over there in the Senate you don’t have to worry about this anymore.”
Despite the obvious jabs at Burlison’s reasoning, opinion in the hearing room sided against Colona. No one testified in opposition to the bill.
McGaugh’s legislation would enable any person to use deadly force on property not their own with the permission of the property owner. Rep. Ron Hicks said it made sense for his parents, who are well-trained with using firearms, to be able to use guns in his home when they are babysitting his children.
“That’s a great bill in my mind,” Hicks said. “No-brainer.”
The bill would also allow for officers of the court to conceal carry weapons in courthouses, contingent on their passage of a gun training and safety course.
Cornejo’s bill would require churches, mosques, synagogues or other places of worship to explicitly state that firearms are not allowed on their property. Under current law places of worship are included in a list of places where concealed carry is not permitted, unless the leader of the church specifies otherwise.
While the bill was supported by the NRA, a representative of the Missouri Catholic Conference thought it made an unfair law or restriction on religion.
“The way I read the bill, you’re having government intrude into religious affairs,” Executive Director of the MCC Mike Hoey said. “It could violate the First Amendment of the US Constitution.”
A date has not yet been set for the bills to go into executive session.