JEFFERSON CITY _ Support by right-wing militias for loosening restrictions on firearms has given fuel to opponents of concealed weapons legislation pending in Missouri's General Assembly.
"Militia groups in Missouri have placed concealed weapons as a top priority," said Tim Jackson, executive director of the Missouri Police Chiefs' Association, which opposes concealed weapons.
In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, "militia" organizations that call for less government and more access to guns have gotten nationwide attention.
Jackson argues that the connection between extreme organizations and concealed weapons supporters may be warranted in some cases. "A lot of them are members of the militia," Jackson said.
But concealed-weapons supporters say that's an unfair argument.
Sen. Harold Caskey, D-Butler and the sponsor of the concealed weapons bill, said any link between groups like the Militia and legislative efforts to get concealed weapons is a "non-issue."
Concealed weapons opponents will use the bombing "against law abiding citizens who want to carry a gun," said Sen. David Klarich, R-St. Louis County.
There have been published reports that one month before the Oklahoma City bombing, Klarich had spoken to a rally of the newly-formed First Missouri Volunteers.
Klarich said he was providing the militia group with a legislative update and that he regularly provides updates for the group _ which, he stressed, he does for a number groups.
Klarich said supporters of citizens' rights to bear arms shouldn't be connected to extremists and most concealed weapons supporters refused to talk about any connections between the two groups.
"My concern is that we have lumped in anyone who has criticism of the federal government with right wing extremists."
But Klarich said he relates to the concerns of the so-called "extremists," although he said he can't understand what would lead someone to bomb a building.
"Over the last 50 years of the Democrats' domination, people have felt their feelings have not gotten a fair hearing," Klarich said. "The government is supposed to be created by the people, for the people."
However, he said he wanted to make clear that there is a difference between a para-military group and a militia.
"A para-military group is a vigilante group that believes military force is necessary," he said. "A militia group just wants to educate people of their individual rights."