JEFFERSON CITY - Stacey Newman said she lives near one of the worst crime zones of the St. Louis area, but she said she doesn't need guns to feel defended.
Newman, a representative of the St. Louis Women's Coalition, testified before a Senate committee Tuesday against a measure that would allow Missouri residents to carry concealed weapons.
"I do not wish, as a voter in Missouri, to sacrifice my children's safety," Newman said. "Gun violence will be the leading cause of death amongs our kids if this passes."
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Larry Crawford, R-Centertown, would give a 21 year-old who goes through 12 hours of training and gets fingerprinted the right to carry a concealed gun.
"This would give Missourians the right to protect themselves instead of leaving home unarmed and defenseless," Crawford said.
Missouri is one of six states that does not already have conceal and carry legislation. Since 1991, when Missouri's first conceal and carry law was introduced, 18 states have passed similar legislation.
"No state that has conceal and carry has ever repealed or restricted it," said Kevin Jamison of the Western Missouri Shooting Alliance. Jamison said he runs a training course on fire arms that includes safety and a session on current gun law, the type of training required by the bill.
"I don't understand why Missourians are less trustworthy and less worthy of being kept safe than the 44 other states' residents that already have concealed weapons laws," he said.
The measure mirrors a proposition which was defeated by a state-wide vote in 1999. More than 100 of Missouri's 115 counties passed the ballot issue, but the most densly populated counties had enough votes to defeat it.
"We've seen that the rural, low-crime areas want concealed weapons but don't need them and the urban, high-crime areas don't want them, but need them," said Todd Elkins with Missouri Impact, an interfaith lobbying group. He testified in opposition to the bill and encouraged the committee to keep the current gun laws in place.
Gary Davis, of Kansas City, testified for the bill saying that it would make the inner city safer.
"As a veteran of Vietnam, I can honestly say I have a better chance of getting shot in Kansas City, Missouri, than I did in Vietnam," Davis said. "Guns are already on the street. People are packing, you just don't know it."
The committee is scheduled to vote on the bill Wednesday.