JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri state law allows citizens to carry weapons, as long as they are in plain sight. But four different bills discussed in a House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee hearing today would allow county sheriffs to issue permits to individuals, allowing them to carry concealed firearms on their person or in vehicles. The permits would be valid throughout the state for three years.
Rep. Larry Crawford, R-Centertown, sponsored one of the bills. He said that in the 13 years this issue has been discussed in Missouri, 17 states have passed similar proposals. "States such as Texas and Florida introduced the bill and have reduced crime against citizens," Crawford said. Currently, Missouri is one of just six states that do not permit carrying concealed firearms.
Rep. Therese Sander, R-Moberly, agreed with Crawford, and said that "since 1995 studies have shown that in those states where citizens are allowed to carry concealed weapons crime has gone down."
"Missouri is the Show-Me state, but year after year we have decided not to look to other states," said Kerry Messer, who represented Missouri Family Network.
However, this issue had a statewide referendum in 1999, when Missourians voted down a similar proposal. The St. Louis and Kansas City areas showed the biggest opposition.
Rep. Neal St. Onge, R-St. Louis County, said he feels he has to represent the overwhelming "no" from his area. "Our citizens are prohibited of carrying firearms because our citizens said no," St. Onge said.
Dena O'Malley, a representative of the Million Mom March from St. Louis, also opposed the bills. She argued that a firearm does not create safe environments. "A gun at home is 22 times more likely to kill a friend than an intruder," she said.
Lawmakers also propose to remove the prohibition on carrying a firearm into a public gathering. But, the proposal would increase the penalty for possessing a firearm while intoxicated.
The bills face a committee vote on Thursday.