Missouri Lawmakers' Efforts To Get Guns On College Campuses, Public Transit Stalled. What's Next?
For the second straight legislative session, the Missouri General Assembly didn't pass any pro-gun legislation, while one bill backed by anti-gun groups saw a sliver of success.
Does that mean legislators’ stance on guns is shifting? It depends on whom you ask.
Kevin Jamison, a Gladstone attorney who leads the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance, said the pro-gun lobby had a tough time passing legislation in 2018 partly because of the tumult surrounding the Eric Greitens scandal, which “sucked the air out of the room.”
This year, Jamison said, some legislators focused too much time on a bill that would have tried to keep local police departments from enforcing federal gun laws.
The bill to get furthest in 2019 was a proposal to allow concealed carry permit holders to carry guns on public university campuses. Currently, guns are banned from all state campuses.
Sponsored by La Monte GOP Rep. Dean Dohrman, the bill passed the House on a mostly party-line vote in April. The Senate then gave the bill a hearing, but no vote.
Jamison said the campus carry bill, which has been filed in past years and will likely be filed again next year, faces an uphill battle because there’s a strong lobbying effort against it.
Among the coalition of business leaders, religious organizations and campus law enforcement groups fighting the bill was Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America.
Karen Rogers is the group's deputy Missouri chapter leader. She said some of the people opposed to the bill are gun owners.
“I’m hopeful the message is resonating with at least some in the capital,” she said. “It may not ever resonate with all, but we are very hopeful.”
Another bill that didn't go as far also involved concealed carry permits. While Missouri residents do not generally need a permit to carry a concealed firearm in public, the state still issues them partly because then they can carry weapons in other states.
A proposal by Republican Sen. Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis would have allowed people with a concealed carry permit to bring firearms onto public transportation, such as buses run by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) or the city’s streetcar system. Amtrak passenger trains would not be affected.
Possessing a gun on public transportation systems in Missouri is currently a felony.
Onder’s bill, among the first to receive a public hearing during the 2019 legislative session, was approved by a committee but never received a vote from the full Senate. He didn't immediately respond to a request for comment but previously told KCUR he hoped the bill would reduce violence on the St. Louis MetroLink system.
Rogers said she was encouraged to see that another bill backed by her organization at least received a public hearing.
That bill, sponsored by Olivette Democratic Rep. Tracy McCreery, would have prohibited some people who are subject to restrianing orders from possessing guns.
The idea was to close a loophole for domestic violence offenders that was created when the state dropped concealed carry permits in 2016, Rogers said.
"It had some bipartisan expressions of support," she said. "I think that was an important positive development from this session. We do anticipate that the bills we fought against this sesssion will be filed again."
In the future
Rogers and Jamison each said the 2020 elections could affect attempts to pass pro- or anti-gun legislation in the state, but it's hard to say how next year's session will play out.
Some legislators may want to play up their pro-gun views to appease constituents, Jamison said, while others could do the opposite.
"It's just whatever they're nervous about," he said.
Either way, Jamison said, his group will work to show candidates that "gun nuts can be very good friends" who are willing to help campaign and place yard signs.
"Politicians need friends," he said.
Chris Haxel is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email him at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisHaxel.