JEFFERSON CITY - Two leading concealed-weapons supporters in Missouri's legislature say they have no plans to try to block efforts by cities to ban hidden pistols on busses and other transportation systems.
The sponsor of the concealed weapons bill, Larry Crawford, R-Centertown, said city governments will initially fear the worst and institute restrictions on where concealed weapons may be carried. But Crawford predicted that after 12 to 18 months concealed weapons will be a non-issue and restrictions will be relaxed. Crawford said he does not, however, see transit restrictions as particularly harmful to the rights of Missourians.
"Honest, law-abiding citizens haven't been able to protect themselves for years so they're not losing anything," with current transit restrictions, he said.
House Speaker Pro Tem Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, said he is concerned with those who already carry weapons on public transportation: criminals. He said that not allowing law-abiding citizens to have concealed weapons on board risks their safety.
"They're probably making a mistake by putting their citizens in harm's way," Jetton said.
Jetton also said that he thinks crime will be reduced with the new concealed weapons legislation and restrictions will be removed as a result.
Both lawmakers made it clear, however, that they are not criticizing local governments that impose restrictions and that it is the right of municipalities to do so.
St. Louis Metro does not allow concealed weapons on board light-rail vehicles, busses or Call-A-Ride vans and will not when concealed weapons permits will begin to be issued after Oct. 11, said Metro General Counsel Celeste Vossmeyer. The metro system was created by a compact between Missouri and Illinois and was approved by the Federal Government in 1949. To amend ordinances for Metro, similar legislation in Missouri and Illinois must be passed and approved by the Feds. There was no attempt to amend Metro ordinances so the concealed weapons legislation does not affect the transit system. Signs will be posted anyway, Vossmeyer said, so there is no confusion among passengers.
Columbia Transit and Para-Transit does not allow weapons on busses and will not change its procedures after Oct. 11, Columbia Transit Supervisor Mark Grindstaff said. Kansas City transit will not allow weapons on public transit vehicles, either.
"Safety is the number one concern for us," Grindstaff said. "The bill will not affect us at all." Signs prohibiting firearms are posted on busses and drivers have been trained not to allow anyone carrying weapons on board, Grindstaff said. Drivers would ask anyone they know to be carrying a weapon to leave the bus and would call the dispatch office if the passenger refuses. Grindstaff knows of no problems in the past and doesn't anticipate any, he said.
The legislation allowing eligible Missourians to carry concealed weapons, passed Sept. 11 by a legislative override of Gov. Bob Holden's veto, permits governmental units to limit concealed firearms in public buildings. Columbia will introduce a measure to prohibit concealed weapons in city buildings on Oct. 6 and the city council plans to vote on the proposal Oct. 20. Firearms are already outlawed from Columbia city buildings. The new measure would specifically prohibit citizens authorized to carry concealed weapons from entering city buildings with firearms, city attorney Fred Boeckmann said.
Ordinances concerning city buildings, such as smoking restrictions, automatically apply to city transportation, Grindstaff said. Columbia Transit policy on firearms will not be affected unless the city council decides to specifically allow concealed weapons on busses, he said. "I doubt that will happen."
Boeckmann said he has seen no pressure in Columbia to ease restrictions on where weapons are allowed to be carried. In fact, feedback has come from people who oppose concealed weapons, Boeckmann said.