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Legislators try to guess why Prop B failed

April 07, 1999
By: Anna Brutzman
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Lawmakers are already announcing that the defeat of Proposition B will not spell the end of concealed-weapon legislation in this state, but some anti-gun lobbyists interpret Missouri's voting results Tuesday as a further indication of the National Rifle Association's general decline.

"The important message is that the NRA leadership is out of touch with the people," said Joe Sudbay, director of state legislation for Handgun Control Inc, which is headquartered in Washington D.C.

Sudbay said there were several factors putting the NRA on the defensive. For one, the NRA has not gotten state concealed-weapon legislation passed since 1996.

Also because Proposition B, the first measure on concealed weapons that has been taken to citizens for a vote, failed, it will embolden opponents of the NRA, Sudbay said.

But many Missouri legislators do not see a connection between Missouri's vote and a national trend toward gun control.

"I don't see any particular strength with the anti-gun lobby after this," said House Minority Leader Delbert Scott.

Supporters of the measure were confident about Prop B and intend to see it pass someday.

"I always felt, and I was wrong, that this measure would pass," said Sen. Danny Staples, D-Eminence. He represents a largely rural district in southeast Missouri. He will develop a strategy for getting a concealed-weapons measure passed, he said, once he has a chance to analyze where Prop B was defeated and where it carried and by what percentage.

The measure had support around the state.

"This measure crosses all demographic lines," said Speaker Pro Tem Jim Kreider, a supporter of concealed weapons. He pointed out that Republicans and Democrats supported Prop B, that they were black and white, rural and urban. 103 out of 115 Missouri jurisdictions passed Prop B.

This wide support left Prop B's supporters bewildered by its defeat.

"I'm still scratching my head," said Fred Myers, a lobbyist for the pro-Prop B group, Missourians Against Crime. "I don't think that there is anything that I would have done differently."

Missourians Against Crime, with help from the NRA, helped legislative sponsors with the law's wording. The group also helped lawmakers pick the date of the vote and, most notably, poured more than $3 million into the campaign.

Though the referendum did not pass this time, Staples said he hasn't given up.

"I've seen referendums get passed the second time around," Staples said.

The concealed-weapons issue may also be a factor in the year 2000 gubernatorial race, said Scott.

"People strongly in favor of it will remember that Governor Carnahan was the road block in the next gubernatorial election," Scott said. Missourians may have to wait until there is a Republican governor more sympathetic to this issue before a concealed-weapons law gets passed in this state.

One legislator, however, sees Prop B's failure not as a fluke but as an indication that Missourians are ready for more gun control.

"It's a ripe time," said Rep. Brian May, D-St. Louis County. "Hopefully the vote yesterday will help us on the guns-in-schools bill."

May's bill, which would make carrying a gun onto school, church or courthouse grounds a felony, is pending in the House this week.

The state's defeat of Proposition B, he said, reflected the will of the people.

"Constituents judged the issue based on the facts," May said, for a decision that was "best for themselves and their families." And, he said, the NRA's big money and celebrity advocates weren't the deciding factors, afterall.

"The dollars from outside the state didn't work," May said. "Maybe it was a detriment."