Missouri Library Association Wants Autonomy on Firearms Decisions

Dec 6, 2017

Although state law allows people to legally carry guns into public libraries, the people who run those libraries hope to have their own say.

Almost all local governments or political subdivisions, except public library districts, have the option to choose whether to allow firearms on the premises.

Vicky Baker, president of the Missouri Library Association, feels libraries were inadvertently left out of the law.

Back in October, the membership of the Missouri Library Association voted at their annual conference on a legislative agenda that included a desire to have public libraries included in Chapter 571.107, the current concealed carry law. That would give library administrators the option to prohibit — or continue to allow — firearms on their properties, Baker said in an email.

Daniel Boone Regional Library Director Melissa Carr said the process for change has already begun.

"We want to have individual conversations with legislators," Carr said. "We want to let local library boards make the decision about what might be appropriate for their community."

Public libraries often have many children inside, and, Carr said, it's important to protect them. Baker agreed.

"Libraries are institutions where there are large numbers of children present," Baker said. "The parents strongly support the option to allow local libraries to decide for themselves."

Many other institutions that host a lot of children require consent from the governing body or manager to carry a weapon onto the property.

The debate over guns being allowed in libraries began in February, when state Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville,  brought a handgun in her purse into the Columbia Public Library during a League of Women Voters candidate forum.

Missouri changed its laws regarding conceal and carry beginning Jan. 1, 2017. Missouri residents no longer need to get a conceal-and-carry permit.

The library previously had signs that said: "Carrying or possession of firearms or weapons prohibited," according to previous Missourian reporting.

 

Jennifer Bukowsky, an attorney representing Toalson Reisch, told the library she would sue if it didn't change the sign to reflect the new law. The library then changed the sign to read: "No person shall possess, on the library premises, a weapon of any kind, unless authorized by law.”

Members of the Missouri Library Association believe local governing boards should have the final say about whether to prohibit or allow firearms in libraries. 

Patricia Powell, president of the Boone County Library District, said in an email that "our concern is the safety of all our library visitors."

The Missourian was unable to reach Boone County legislators for comment.