Missouri is a step closer to allowing guns on buses and declaring federal firearms laws “invalid.”
A state Senate committee Thursday advanced two gun rights expansion bills to the floor. Both have already passed the House.
The bill allowing concealed-carry permit holders to bring guns onto public transit is opposed by Kansas City transit officials and Mayor Quinton Lucas.
The other bill, an annual proposal, would nullify federal gun laws and regulations, including those that require fees, registration or tracking of guns. It would bar police in Missouri from enforcing those rules and allow those who believe their Second Amendment rights have been violated to sue local law enforcement for $50,000.
Being brought up on the Senate floor would be the closest the proposal has gotten to passage in years — and it may be spurred on by new federal gun control actions announced Thursday by the Biden administration, which have angered Republicans.
The bill, known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act, passed both chambers overwhelmingly when it was first introduced in 2013, then narrowly failed an override of then-Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto.
Since then it has been proposed each year, part of a wave of conservative efforts to carve the state out from what they call intrusions from the federal government. Rep. Jered Taylor, a Republican from Republic who sponsored it this year, has seized on turnover in the White House to urge for its passage.
“We’ve never had a president who’s been so openly against our Second Amendment,” Taylor said in the House in February. “We as a state need to support our state’s rights and stop the federal government from their overreach.”
Asked by colleagues why he had also proposed the bill during the Trump administration, Taylor said he was responding to “the progression of how we’re moving in general across the country” on gun rights.
On the heels of recent mass shootings, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced executive actions on gun control. He called gun violence in America “an epidemic” and an “international embarrassment,” and directed the U.S. Justice Department to more tightly regulate a device that allows a pistol to operate more like a rifle and homemade “ghost guns,” which lack serial numbers.
If the Missouri bill passes, local and state police would be barred from enforcing those orders, Sen. Eric Burlison, a Battlefield Republican, said Thursday.
The Senate’s Republican leaders addressed the orders at a weekly press conference.
“That brings the conversation to the forefront” on Missouri’s gun laws, Senate President Dave Schatz, a Sullivan Republican, said. “But when the Biden administration is threatening … what we hold dearly to, the Second Amendment rights we hold, that conversation’s going to heat up very rapidly.”
The proposal has alarmed gun control advocates, particularly over a potential loophole for convicted domestic abusers, if a federal prohibition on their possession of firearms is nullified. The House is also considering a bill that would prohibit those residents from owning guns under state law.
Democrats have slammed the bill’s restrictions on local law enforcement, which often works with federal agents.
“Illegal gun traffickers can now sue our police and get paid,” Rep. Peter Merideth, a Democrat from St. Louis, said in February. “We’re literally defunding our law enforcement agencies.”
Proponents and firearms advocates may also undo a state law this year that makes it a crime to carry a gun onto public transportation. That bill would also allow non-permit holders to transport firearms on public transit in a “non-functioning state” without ammunition.
Lucas planned to testify against it during a trip to Jefferson City last week, but left before the delayed meeting could begin.
Kansas City suffered its deadliest year ever in 2020, ending with 182 homicides — most of the victims dying by gunfire, according to data maintained by The Star. At least 630 other people in the city were shot and lived.
Rep. Adam Schnelting, a Republican from St. Charles who sponsored the bill, told the Senate General Laws Committee the bill would make it safer to take transit.
“The system is broken when our constitutional rights are not secured by those who represent us in government,” he said. “This bill solves that problem for public transit.”
Lobbyist Shannon Cooper testified against the bill on behalf of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and Lucas.
In 2019, there were 14 million bus rides in Kansas City and just 15 incidents that required police attention, Cooper said. Only one was considered a “high level of severity,” he said.
“We feel like we provide a very safe mode of transportation,” Cooper said. “And the good people that we represent in Kansas City, they’re not comfortable with people carrying concealed on the buses.”
Voting to send the bill to the Senate floor on Thursday, Burlison said he wished it included “a lot of other places where we unnecessarily prohibit firearms.”
“My only regret is that this is only on public transportation,” he said.
(c) 2021 The Kansas City Star
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.