Wave of Gun Legislation Filed in Missouri General Assembly

Mar 6, 2017

Credit File / KBIA

Missouri lawmakers have filed more than 20 bills that would alter gun rights — ranging from requiring the reporting of lost firearms to prohibiting firearm sales for anyone on the federal no-fly list.

There's even a bill establishing a state gun.

But one of the bills drawing the most attention would get guns out of the hands of many of those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.

A majority of the legislation would increase restrictions on who can have access to firearms after the passing of SB 656. Concealed carry of a firearm without a permit became legal after the General Assembly passed the bill in September, overriding former Gov. Jay Nixon's veto.

Permits are still available. However, the state has seen an increase in gun sales, while the number of permit applications has dropped, according to the Associated Press.

By not requiring permits, law enforcement cannot restrict who has access to guns based on background checks that are performed when permits are issued. 

Holes in the current law allow people with misdemeanor convictions of domestic violence to own and carry a firearm.

Several lawmakers have proposed legislation that would plug the gaps. Also prevented from owning guns would be undocumented immigrants, anyone who has been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces or has renounced their U.S. citizenship.

These restrictions would make state law match current federal law. These additional restrictions were part of a 1997 amendment to the federal Gun Control Act of 1968.

Lawmakers were aware in September of the holes that passing SB 656 would create, and some were also approached by a National Rifle Association lobbyist who also expressed similar concerns, according to previous Missourian reporting.

State Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson, who said she was approached by the lobbyist, said the NRA agreed that allowing people with misdemeanors of domestic violence to access guns may be a problem, and that the organization had suggested adopting federal law.

However, on the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action website, the NRA encouraged Missouri residents to call their lawmakers to oppose HB 766, the bill sponsored by Lichtenegger earlier this year,  and the nearly identical SB 318.

On its website, the NRA wrote that including misdemeanor convictions of domestic violence is too strict and that "felony convictions provide greater procedural protections to the accused, which results in more reliable convictions." The legislation creates new victims "because it does nothing to address the real, albeit rare, circumstances where false accusations are made," the NRA wrote.

"These are bad bills and merely a political ploy by the House sponsor to score points at the expense of a constitutional right​," NRA spokeswoman Nicole Waugh said in a statement emailed to the Missourian. Waugh could not be reached for further comment.

While the NRA's website said these bills are "bad legislation" that go "far beyond what exists in federal law," Lichtenegger said the NRA is on board with the federal language. After working with the NRA, Lichtenegger, an NRA life member, filed a new bill, HB 1068, on Tuesday, a day before the cutoff for filing legislation this session to replace the previous bill. It relies on federal language that provides a narrower scope for actions that qualify as misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence, compared to state law.

According to the section of U.S. Code referenced in the bill, a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence has an element of use or attempted use of physical force or the threat of use of a deadly weapon by someone who at one point acted as a spouse, parent or guardian, lived with or shared a child with the victim. The state definition is more expansive and includes such actions as restricting another person's access to "telecommunication devices or transportation for the purpose of isolation."

The bill also allows a person who is issued with a court order that prevents them from harassing, stalking or threatening an intimate partner, or certain other criteria, 24 hours to sell or transfer the firearm from their possession. In addition, the bill no longer restricts people dishonorably discharged from the armed forces from having access to firearms. This provision is part of federal law. Lichtenegger said she does not anticipate opposition from the NRA with the new bill and that they have been cooperative with negotiations over the bill's language.

Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis, a sponsor of the similar HB 742, criticized Lichtenegger's withdrawal of the original bill last week and said she does not approve of the recently filed HB 1068.

"I actually think this bill is worse than leaving the loophole in place," McCreery said. "This is an unacceptable substitute."

McCreery called the 24-hour window allowing a person issued a court order to sell or transfer their firearm a "countdown to death." McCreery said the provision makes her nervous about the possibility of violence.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a 2008 study surveying 10 cities found that about a fifth of intimate partner homicide victims who had restraining orders were killed within two days of the order being issued. About a third were killed within a month.

Lichtenegger said the 24-hour period is something she would also like to decrease to reduce the possibility for further violence.

McCreery said she also took issue with how the bill defines an "intimate partner." In the bill's language, an intimate partner is defined by federal law. McCreery said she feels the state's definition of family or household member is more specific, in part because it includes dating partners.

"I feel like that is a more broad definition," McCreery said. "We put that in place on purpose to adequately reflect living situations."

Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, a sponsor of a similar Senate bill, said it makes sense for the state to enforce the restrictions. 

"The challenge is the federal enforcement resources are just not there to be brought to bear," Sifton said. "The state does have — between local police departments, county sheriffs, the highway patrolmen — we have greater on-the-ground resources to enforce the law that's already on the books nationally."

Sifton said his attention was brought to the issue after a constituent who had been involved in a domestic violence situation came to him expressing fear for her safety.

"Legislation that the NRA did lobby for has provided for no protection under Missouri law for domestic violence victims, and that's completely unacceptable to me," Sifton said. "If the NRA wants to advocate for convicted criminals, that's their business."

There were 280 women nationwide shot and killed by either their husband or intimate partner during the course of an argument, according to a 2015 Violence Policy Center study analyzing 2013 homicide data.

Lichtenegger and Sifton both expressed urgency for closing the gap in the state's gun law. Lichtenegger's bill includes an emergency clause that would make the bill effective upon the governor's signature.

"It's a matter of life or death," Lichtenegger said.

Lichtenegger said she knows firsthand the effects of domestic violence because her mother was a victim of domestic violence.

"My mother was violated many times, and I distinctly remember, when I was 4, a couple of those times," Lichtenegger said. "And my mom, to her credit, divorced my dad. And as I got older, I realized how brave it was for her to do that."

Lichtenegger said it's important for her to close the loophole, not only for her mother and other victims, but for herself as well.

"For me, I'm going to feel like I'm doing something my mom would have been very proud of. And then I'm doing it for myself also, because I got my head bashed in when I was younger by somebody who came in my room in the middle of the night," Lichtenegger said. "So I've been a victim myself, and I just thank God that this young man didn't have a gun."

Lichtenegger and Sifton's bills aren't the only ones the NRA opposes on its website. In a second post, the NRA encourages Missouri residents to oppose six bills, including HB 185, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Franks Jr., D-St. Louis. The bill would require an owner to report the loss of their firearm to law enforcement within 72 hours of losing it, or face increasing fines and possible jail time.

In response, Franks wrote an open letter to the NRA in support of his bill and SB 181, writing, "These bills are not attacks on gun owners. Rather these bills would provide the armor to protect gun owners and others from firearms that have gotten in the hands of dangerous individuals."

In its post, the NRA encouraged the support of one bill — HB 458, which would allow people who legally own a firearm to transport or store their gun in a locked car in any parking area, such as a lot or garage.

Here's a rundown of proposed gun legislation:

  • HB 96, sponsored by Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O'Fallon: Would make businesses that post signs prohibiting concealed firearms liable for injuries or damages sustained by people who would otherwise be allowed to have firearms on them. Similar to HB 300, sponsored by Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove.
  • HB 185, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Franks Jr., D-St. Louis: Would require an owner to report the loss of a firearm to law enforcement within 72 hours of losing it or face increasing fines and possible jail time. Opposed by the NRA. Similar to SB 181, sponsored by Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis. Referred to Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee.
  • HB 241, sponsored by Rep. Doug Beck, D-St. Louis: Would make it a felony to sell or give a firearm to anyone who is listed on the federal no-fly list. Opposed by the NRA.
  • HB 361, sponsored by Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis: Would make it a Class A misdemeanor to sell or give firearm ammunition or accessories to minors.
  • HB 362, sponsored by Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis: Would require a person to store a deadly weapon in a safe or have it be unloaded without ammunition in the presence of a child under 17.
  • HB 363, sponsored by Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis: Would require all firearm sales to go through a licensed dealer who would perform a background check. Opposed by the NRA.
  • HB 364, sponsored by Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis: Would require a permit before purchasing a firearm, and would also restrict who can buy one, including people on the domestic terrorist watch list or people with an order of protection because of domestic violence, stalking or sexual offense. Opposed by the NRA.
  • HB 365, sponsored by Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis: Would allow people to file extreme risk protection orders, prohibiting someone who poses significant risk to themselves or others to have access to firearms for a year. Would also allow law enforcement to seize guns of people issued protection orders. Opposed by the NRA.
  • HB 366, sponsored by Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis: Would require a person purchasing a firearm from a dealer over 120 miles from where they live to undergo an evaluation by a physician. If approved by the physician, after the purchase of the firearm the person must watch a video on fatal firearm injuries, visit an emergency trauma center and visit at least two families who have been victims of gun violence and two faith leaders who have officiated the funeral of a minor who was a victim of gun violence. Opposed by the NRA.
  • HB 400, sponsored by Rep. Andrew McDaniel, R-Deering: Would exempt concealed carry permit holders from undergoing a background check when purchasing firearms from a licensed dealer.
  • HB 458, sponsored by Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis: Would allow anyone who legally owns a firearm to transport or store their gun in a locked car in any parking area, such as a lot or garage. Supported by the NRA. Referred to General Laws Committee.
  • HB 555, sponsored by Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon: Would establish the "Safe Schools Act," which would require a school that allows employees to carry concealed firearms to post a notice stating so. Would also require a school district to provide reports on violations or abusive behavior toward students when a former employee is being hired in another school district.
  • HB 593, sponsored by Rep. Andrew McDaniel, R-Deering: Would prohibit where firearms can be carried, including prisons and airports.
  • HB 630, sponsored by Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa: Would prohibit where firearms can be carried, including schools, school buses, police stations, prisons, courthouses and airports. Would allow firearms in churches or places of worship and election precincts. Referred to General Laws Committee.
  • HB 658, sponsored by Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis: Would allow law enforcement to take temporary custody of firearms when responding to certain domestic violence situations. Restricts firearm possession under various domestic restraint orders. Supported by the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
  • HB 742, sponsored by Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis: Would restrict people with misdemeanors of domestic violence, undocumented immigrants, people who were dishonorably discharged from the armed forces or people have renounced their U.S. citizenship, from owning a gun. Similar to SB 318, sponsored by Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton. Opposed by the NRA. Supported by the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Referred to Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee.
  • HB 801, sponsored by Rep. Joshua Peters, D-St. Louis: Would establish the .44-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver, which was used to kill Jesse James, as the official state hand gun of Missouri.
  • HB 853, sponsored by Rep. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis: Would allow a person who takes up to eight hours of firearm education or safety courses up to a $500 income tax deduction.
  • HB 859, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Pogue, R-Salem: Would establish the "Second Amendment Preservation Act," which would make any federal laws, orders or rules restricting the right to bear arms invalid in the state. Would also prohibit public officials or law enforcement from enforcing federal laws that infringe on the right to bear arms.
  • HB 929, sponsored by Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis: Would repeal and modify provision in SB 656 regarding concealed carry of firearms, permit training requirements and the duty to retreat.
  • HB 1068, sponsored by Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson: Would restrict people with misdemeanors of domestic violence, undocumented immigrants, or people have renounced their U.S. citizenship, from owning a gun. Includes an emergency clause. New version of the withdrawn HB 766, also sponsored by Lichtenegger.
  • SB 89, sponsored by Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City: Would make it a crime if parents don't prevent minors from illegally possessing firearms. A parent can also be charged for negligent storage of a firearm and must notify a school district if they own a firearm. Referred to Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee.
  • SB 152, sponsored by Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur: Would require a licensed dealer to wait 24 hours after a purchase before delivering a firearm. Referred to Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee.