JEFFERSON CITY - The concealed weapons bill killed by the Senate last week received its burial Monday when the bill's sponsor, Sen. Danny Staples, D-Eminence, pledged not to bring the issue up again this year.
Staples said the death of the weapons bill can be traced to an unlikely culprit - the National Rifle Association.
During session Monday, Staples took issue with a letter sent by the NRA to another senator, asking him to vote against bringing the bill up again. This letter also alleged that Staples had gone back on promises to oppose any amendments requiring a statewide referendum on the issue.
The referendum amendment would have allowed the bill to bypass the desk of the governor, who had indicated he would veto it.
Staples, who sponsored the referendum amendment, said he never gave any assurances to the NRA, and did not appreciate being called a liar. He then said he would scrap the bill.
"Senate bill 693 is a dead bill as far as I'm concerned," Staples said. After the Senate narrowly rejected the bill last week, Staples said he would get it back before the Senate by today, the deadline for reconsideration.
Staples cited both NRA opposition and a lack of support in the Senate as reasons for giving up on the bill.
"I gave them my all in trying to get them a conceal and carry bill and now they're opposed to it," Staples said. "So now I'm going to oblige them."
Staples also said that as long as the Senate did not support the bill, continuing the debate would have been pointless.
"I don't have the votes," Staples said. "And I don't believe in wasting time. If you're fighting a losing battle, you might as well let someone else have the floor and take up something that's going to go someplace."
The letter's author, John Hosford, Missouri Liaison for the NRA, said its contents were accurate.
"I went into this trusting Senator Staples," Hosford said. "He knew from day one we were opposed to a referendum. We let him know by letter that we considered an attempt to put the bill on a referendum an attempt to kill the bill."
Hosford said he was pleased at the death of the bill.
"That's exactly what we wanted to happen," he said.
The main reason the NRA is opposed to the bill is because of Staples' referendum amendment approved by the Senate last week, Hosford added.
"You don't put the most basic right, the right to self defense, up to the vote of 51 percent of however many people show up on election day," he said.
The association has other reasons for opposing the referendum, Hosford said.
"The cost of educating people in the face of law enforcement and media opposition would have been huge," Hosford said.
Tim Oliver, chief strategist for the Missouri Legislative Issues Council, an organization that shares many of the same goals as the NRA, said he received expert estimates on the cost of such "education" of up to $6 million.
"Every dollar we spend on the referendum is a dollar we can't spend on the election in November," Oliver said.
Oliver also said Staples told his organization two weeks ago that he would oppose a referendum on concealed weapons. Oliver said Staples' change of heart on the referendum issue was most likely an attempt to protect Gov. Mel Carnahan from the political repercussions of having to actually veto the legislation.
"I think Senator Staples is trying to be a good democrat and protect his governor," he said.
When asked about Oliver's comments, Staples denied having such motivations.
"Me, a lowly state senator?" Staples said. "I'm not trying to protect the governor. I wish I was as popular as he is."
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