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SB 656 override vote brings out coalition of opponents

During this election season, most campaigns plan to peak in November when their candidate or issue is on the ballot. But one campaign burning up social media is focused on Sept. 14, when the Senate will attempt to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of Senate Bill 656, the “gun bill.”

A coalition of the bill’s opponents have launched an aggressive campaign targeting Republican legislators as they attempt to flip the two votes necessary to sustain the veto.

The opposition coalition includes Moms Demand Action, the Catholic Church and the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police.

SB 656 will expand the state’s concealed carry system so that a permit isn’t needed to conceal carry. The bill also contains a “stand your ground” provision, but that has received less attention from the campaign to sustain the veto.

The veto

Pro-gun legislation isn’t carelessly vetoed in Missouri, where even Democratic candidates for statewide office court the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. But Nixon vetoed this bill during his last year in office. (The Democrat vying to succeed Nixon, Attorney General Chris Koster, has said he would have likely let the bill become law.) In vetoing the bill, Nixon listed other pro-concealed carry legislation he has signed over the last couple of years.

“While the [listed] improvements received my support, Senate Bill No. 656, which would throw out the permit process and allow individuals to carry concealed firearms without any of the public safety protections that exist in current law, does not,” Nixon wrote in his veto letter.

He also cited the possibility of someone applying for a concealed carry permit so that through reciprocity they could carry in another state. In his example, the sheriff in that person’s county denies their application, but concealed carry anyway because of SB 656.

“I cannot support a system that would ignore a determination by the chief law enforcement officer of a county that an individual is a danger to the community and should not be authorized to carry a concealed firearm,” Nixon wrote.

The veto quickly brought calls to override the governor’s action.

In the House of Representatives, Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, vowed an override. It looks likely that he will fulfill that vow. One hundred fourteen members of the House voted for the bill, while another six members of the Republican caucus were absent. While two Republicans have since resigned their positions, the bill’s opponents will still have to flip nine votes to sustain the veto.

Gun rights supporters remain confident in their ability to override the veto as well, criticizing groups that oppose the legislation.

“Senate Bill 656 does not allow anyone prohibited from possessing a firearm to start carrying a firearm.  Any claims to the contrary are simply a bold-faced lie,” said Lars Dalseide, a spokesman for the NRA. “All SB 656 does is to recognize all law-abiding citizens’ constitutional right to protect themselves and their families because violent crime can strike at any place and at any time.The Obama/Clinton/Bloomberg anti-gun groups seem to care more about the lives of criminals than the lives of law-abiding Missourians.”

The campaign to sustain

But in order for the House to get the chance to override the veto, it must clear the Senate. That chamber voted 24-8 along party lines for the bill during session. Opponents must only flip two votes to sustain the veto.

That’s where the campaign comes in. Moms Demand Action, a grassroots-style group made up of mothers seeking action on gun control measures (and backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund), has launched a social media and phone calling campaign to try to convince senators to vote to sustain the veto.

They’ve been calling their senators and representatives asking them to sustain the veto. They’ve also been aggressively courting the legislators on Twitter, tweeting at them every poll or column or endorsement that shows support for stopping the bill.

Last week at the Governor’s Ham Breakfast at the Missouri State Fair, they got the chance to meet some of the people they’ve been calling. A group of five moms visited to talk to senators and state representatives, who told them they’ve been hearing from their group.

“It was really great with being able to tell senators and our reps that moms, since we saw them during the legislative session this winter, we have been expanding like wild, having meetings all over the state,” said Kristin Bowen, a volunteer with the group. “Not just in places like Columbia and St. Louis, but Cape Girardeau and Warrensburg and that we are having meetings in their districts and getting people together to get active and call their legislators. Some of them said, ‘yes, I’ve heard from you.’ And so it’s working and that was great.”

More than just being heard, the moms received some validation that their efforts were paying off.

“We spoke with a couple of Republicans who think that in the Senate there’s a decent chance that the governor’s veto will be upheld,” Bowen said. “That was very encouraging.”

Everytown released polling earlier this month which showed that 83 percent of Missourians favor issuing permits for concealed carry. However, it also found that 63 percent would vote for a candidate with whom they agreed on a lot of issues, but disagreed on the issue of guns.

On the other hand, 63 percent of those polled said they would be less likely to reelect a senator who voted to eliminate concealed carry permits and allow people to concealed carry without a background check or safety training.

Coalition Partners

Moms Demand Action hasn’t campaigned against the bill on their own. The Missouri Fraternal Order of Police and the Missouri Catholic Conference have expressed opposition to the bill.

In a letter to Nixon before the veto, then FOP President Kevin Ahlbrand reiterated the group’s support of Second Amendment rights. He also warned that allowing SB 656 to become law could have detrimental effects on the state.

“If SB 656 becomes law, we can no longer take guns out of the hands of violent persons,” Ahlbrand wrote. “Gun violence will increase.”

Missouri’s Catholic bishops agreed. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, Bishop James V. Johnston of Kansas City, Bishop John R. Gaydos of Jefferson City and Bishop Edward M. Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau have encouraged lawmakers to sustain Nixon’s veto.

“We think that doing away with the training requirement would undermine public safety and potentially put law enforcement at risk,” the bishops wrote in a joint statement. “Missouri’s current statute outlines a reasonable and prudent process that ensures those obtaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon are properly trained and know when, and under what circumstances, they can lawfully use that weapon.”

They also lamented that the “stand your ground” provision would violate Catholic principles.