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Missouri Lawmakers Train With Firearms, Want Concealed Guns in Capitol

According to the Kansas City Star on March 31st:

JEFFERSON CITY | It’s been a quiet week in Jefferson City.

Legislators writing laws. Debating the budget.

Training with handguns.

About 16 Missouri lawmakers — along with several legislative staffers and at least one representative’s wife — are taking a firearms-training course sponsored by the bipartisan “Sportsmen’s Caucus” that will qualify them for concealed weapons permits.

Tuesday’s lesson plan? Proper firearm care and cleaning.

“You need to bring your weapon tonight,” read a reminder sent out over the House e-mail system. “No ammo will be needed. Pizza and soda will be served.”

Missouri, like most states, allows people to carry concealed weapons if they pass a training course and register with a law enforcement agency. This week, lawmakers took steps to extend that privilege into the corridors of the Capitol.

On the same day of the lawmakers’ firearms class, the House gave first-round approval to a bill that would expressly allow legislators, their aides and employees to carry concealed weapons in the statehouse.

“If you stay up with your news and what’s going on in the world, you know bad things happen all over the place,” said Rep. Jeanie Riddle, a Mokane Republican who sponsored the amendment that added the Capitol language. “It would be nice for us to not be a statistic.”

State law now bars most people — including state employees — from bringing a deadly weapon into the Capitol. Lawmakers who hold a concealed-carry permit, however, are exempt from the prohibition.

Riddle said it was only fair to extend that privilege to others who work in the building, which no longer has metal detectors but has a Capitol police force.

“My life isn’t any more important than anyone else’s who works here, so to offer them the same opportunity I think is the right thing to do,” Riddle said.

The measure was included in a broader firearms bill that would drop the age limit for a concealed-carry permit from 23 to 21, and expand the “Castle Doctrine” to allow people who rent their homes to use deadly force against intruders.

The bill passed on a 125-19 vote.

But not everyone thinks lawmakers and their staffers should be packing heat in the halls of government.

“I think it’s incredibly shortsighted for so many people who are not even elected by the public to bring guns into the Capitol, (especially) so many people who often are immature and feel very passionate about their positions,” said Rep. Mary Still, a Columbia Democrat who voted against the bill.

But even some opponents of the legislation were not especially concerned with the provisions relating to the Capitol. More troubling, they said, was the proposed lowered age limit for concealed-carry permits.

“I know there are a lot of people that bring weapons into the statehouse. I can’t help that. It’s their right and privilege under the law,” said Rep. Tom McDonald, an Independence Democrat. “But extending that to 21-year-olds and giving kids that age the privilege to carry a gun leads to bigger problems.”

The firearms legislation must still win a second vote in the House before moving to the Senate for further consideration. Yet even if it fails, Missouri’s Capitol is still more welcoming to weapons than Kansas and some other states.

In Kansas, firearms — concealed or otherwise — are not allowed in the statehouse or in most other government buildings. State law does not prohibit the open carrying of firearms, so cities without local bans, such as Topeka, allow citizens to wear holstered firearms in public — though not in the statehouse.


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