About 300 people poured into the hallways of the Missouri Capitol Tuesday, calling for lawmakers to avoid creating new laws that would loosen existing gun regulations.
Kim Westerman, who lives in St. Louis and volunteers with the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said they’re concerned that pro-gun lawmakers in Missouri remain unmoved by the recent mass shooting at a high school in Florida that claimed 17 lives.
“Missouri has made some backward steps, I think, as far as gun safety in the last few years,” she said. “We are out here just playing defense right now, trying to stop even worse laws from passing.”
In 2014, Missouri lawmakers passed a wide-ranging gun rights bill that effectively made Missouri an open-carry state, lowered the age for getting a conceal-carry weapon, or CCW, permit to 19, and allowed public school districts to arm teachers. Former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed the bill, but the Republican majorities in the House and Senate pulled off a successful override.
Moms Demand volunteers point to one bill in particular this year, which could allow firearms in areas currently designated as gun-free zones, including college campuses.
“That is what we call a ‘guns everywhere bill,’ to force college campuses to allow conceal-carry against the wishes of campus administrators and police,” Westerman said. “It also would allow guns in sensitive places like daycares and bars, and I think we can all agree (that) alcohol and guns don’t mix.”
The volunteers split up into several groups and dropped in on lawmakers’ offices. One group made up of people mostly from southwestern Missouri tried to meet with Rep. Mike Stephens, R-Bolivar, but he was on the House floor at the time. Jean Knapp of Springfield spoke for them.
“Many of us have connections with education, including higher education,” she told Stephens’ aide. “We are very concerned about the mix of guns with college students, because of the risk factors involved.”
The bill sponsor, Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, was also not in his office. But he spoke to St. Louis Public Radio while in the House chamber.
“I’m taking a look at those locations and figuring out which ones make sense to remove as gun-free zones,” he said. “A lot of those locations are private businesses, (and) in my opinion we should leave it up to the private business owner.”
A public hearing was scheduled for Taylor’s bill Tuesday, but has been postponed and not rescheduled yet.
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