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Packed Pistols

By: DAVID ROYSE
State Capital Bureau

March 14, 1995

JEFFERSON CITY _ Joe Rowland wears a P-85 pistol in plain view on his hip while working as a sales clerk at Target Masters gun store and target range in Columbia.

If the Missouri legislature allows a concealed weapons proposal to go before Missourians for a vote, and the measure is passed, Rowland could carry the gun in his pocket.

But Rowland, who lives in Harrisburg, says he probably wouldn't do that very often, if at all. If he went to a bar, or many other public places, Rowland said he would likely leave his gun in the car - or at home.

Bars, especially, concern opponents of the measure, and Rowland says he understands. "You don't want to get in a situation where you've got guns in the bar scene," said Rowland.

Rowland said criminals already carry firearms and "average people who aren't going to kill anybody need to be able to defend themselves," but when you mix ammo and alcohol, even average citizens could be dangerous.

"What's to say an average citizen won't get mad about something and go out to the truck and get a gun?" Rowland asked. And, he acknowledged, that is the danger in allowing people to have concealed firearms.

Still, Rowland supports the measure, which includes a provision by which bars and other public establishments would be able to prohibit concealed weapons on their premises if they post a sign saying so.

Bill Barker, a Target Masters customer from Mexico, Mo., also said the permit bill would not affect him much.

"Usually where I go I don't need a weapon," said Barker. He said he probably would not carry one concealed on his person even if he had a permit to do so.

"But I would like to be able to have it in the car and not worry about getting wrote up for it," Barker said.

Some gun owners say a number of otherwise law-abiding citizens already conceal weapons in their cars, because they are afraid of crime.

Gene Simmerman, a gun owner from Moberly, Mo., said he does not carry a concealed weapon now, but would be the first in line to apply for a permit if the measure passes.

Simmerman wants to level the playing field with criminals who carry concealed weapons. "If a guy sticks a weapon in my face, I at least want to have a chance," said Simmerman. "I guarantee it'll drop the crime rate. Criminals think about that," Simmerman said.