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Missouri would allow guns on public transit and inside churches under House GOP bill

The Missouri Capitol building on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2024, in Jefferson City, Mo.
Tristen Rouse
St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri Capitol building on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2024, in Jefferson City, Mo.

The legislation from St. Charles Rep. Adam Schnelting passed the Missouri House last session but died in the Senate. It would also lower the age requirement for a concealed carry permit from 19 to 18.

A St. Charles Republican has revived state legislation that would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring firearms onto buses and other public transportation.

Rep. Adam Schnelting presented his bill, which passed the Missouri House last session but died in the Senate, to the House General Laws Committee on Tuesday.

The legislation would apply to public transportation, including buses and trains. It would not apply to Amtrak or any partnership involving Amtrak.

Schnelting said he believes his legislation makes public transportation safer.

“It helps to secure our ability and your constituents' ability to defend themselves on the public transportation system, mind you that they pay for with tax dollars,” Schnelting said.

Democrats on the committee and multiple organizations centered around transportation disagreed with Schnelting's assessment.

Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said he has yet to meet a constituent who supports allowing firearms on public transportation.

“Every one of them says, ‘No, that sounds like a terrible idea. I might be less likely to ride a bus,’” Merideth said.

Mike Winter, speaking for the Missouri Public Transit Association, said the organization has opposed the legislation for years.

“I appreciate the comments about the theory that allowing concealed carry permit owners to carry weapons on public transit to give them a sense of being more secure on either buses or trains or wherever they want to carry,” Winter said. “I can tell you it's just the opposite from the operators who have the responsibility for the safety of all the riders on our facilities.”

The bill does not address someone traveling between Missouri and Illinois, which has stricter gun laws.

In addition to allowing guns on public transportation, the bill lowers the age requirement to apply for a concealed carry permit from 19 to 18.

Merideth pointed out that the change would mean most high school seniors would be able to have concealed carry permits.

“Obviously I'd prefer we had a 21 age [limit] for a lot of this. If you're not old enough to drink, you're probably not old enough to carry a gun,” Merideth said.

The bill itself has grown compared to last session’s version. Schnelting said he added amendments that were attached by other lawmakers last year.

One of those amendments repealed the prohibition on the concealed carrying of firearms in places of worship.

That amendment would establish the ability to bring a firearm with a concealed carry permit into a place of worship, though those organizations could still ban firearms on an individual basis.

Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, who successfully added that amendment last session, said the issue was brought to him by constituents who are pastors.

“I was doing my job and introducing legislation that they wanted to address problems that they had seen and that they have experienced in their own parishes,” Baker said.

Currently, churches already can allow firearms if church leadership, like a pastor, allows it.

Schnelting said he spoke with one pastor who wanted the bill because it would help with liability issues.

“If a member comes to you and says, ‘Hey, I'd like to carry,’ and you don't necessarily know that member, but you feel like as pastor you're taking on liability to say, ‘Well, OK, you can carry,’ he didn't want to be put in that position where he had to decide one way or another,” Schnelting said.

Merideth said this change does not actually provide a new choice.

“You're just changing what the default position is, and if a majority of churches in our state don't want that default position to change, why should we as government change it?” Merideth said.

Schnelting disagreed with the idea that a majority of churches dislike the bill.

Lawmakers on the committee also heard testimony on Tuesday on a bill that would eliminate the local and state sales tax on firearms and ammunition sold in Missouri.

Copyright 2024 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Sarah Kellogg is St. Louis Public Radio’s Statehouse and Politics Reporter, taking on the position in August 2021. Sarah is from the St. Louis area and even served as a newsroom intern for St. Louis Public Radio back in 2015.
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