Last legislative session, State Rep. Eric Burlison introduced HB 1250 that would have allowed any legal gun owner to carry a concealed weapon without having to obtain a CCW permit, eliminating all criminal penalties associated with failing to obtain a permit for a concealed weapon. Unfortunately, that bill, while it passed the Emerging Issues Committee, died when the session adjourned May 30th with no further action being taken.
Under the Missouri Constitution, there is no carry-over of bills from one legislative session to the next, necessitating the re-filing of any bill that a legislator wishes to push. According to a Burlison legislative assistant, the Representative plans to re-introduce the bill after the next session convenes on January 6, 2016.
Under current Missouri law, gun owners may legally “open carry” a weapon anywhere that does not expressly forbid the practice, but must obtain a CCW permit to carry their weapon in a concealed fashion.
“Right now we’re basically having people get a background check and training in order to put a piece of clothing over something,” Burlison told The Missouri Times. “Right now you can buy a gun and carry it, but you cannot conceal and carry it. The permit allows you to put clothing over a gun that you already have a constitutional right to carry.”
Missourians must currently undergo a background check through their local sheriff’s office and submit to brief gun training before legally carrying a concealed weapon in the state. Burlison likened the process to an arbitrary burden on a fundamental right, saying he’d originally crafted the bill a few years ago, but decided to offer it last session in light of the passage of Constitutional Amendment 5 on the ballot in 2014 that provided the right to keep and bear arms shall be “unalienable” and that any restriction on these rights shall be subject to “strict scrutiny.”
An interesting wrinkle to this story is that the Missouri Supreme Court is considering a case that may make the need for the bill moot. On October 27, 2015, the Court heard oral arguments in the case of Raymond Robinson, a convicted felon that was arrested for being illegally in possession of a firearm. In March of this year, a St. Louis judge ordered charges dropped against Robinson and the State appealed.
That ruling, issued by St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker, and relying upon “strict scrutiny” analysis, states that while Robinson has not been a “model citizen,” the State of Missouri has not presented a compelling governmental interest to deprive Robinson of that right and charge him with a crime. What is particularly ironic, noted Burlison, is that Robinson’s previous felony charge was in 2003 for carrying a concealed weapon without a valid CCW permit.
Burlison said the case was indicative of Missouri’s odd contradiction in gun law. If Burlison’s bill had been law in 2003, Robinson would have not been in violation of the law, and wouldn’t have been a convicted felon when arrested earlier this year with a weapon.
“Depending on how this case continues to be decided, this bill may become unnecessary,” Burlison said, indicating that if courts rule that CCW requirements violate a constitutional right to possess a weapon, his bill would not be needed. The Court is expected to issue its ruling sometime in 2016.
Burlison asserted much of the objection to his bill last session was based upon a “false premise” that more guns equate to more unsafe communities, and says it’s inaccurate to assume that a legal gun owner is “by-definition” unsafe. Criminals, Burlison said, will always have their weapons, and won’t care about the law.
Burlison, who is in his final term, has offered a handful of pieces of gun legislation before, including an effort early during his time in the legislature to lower the minimum eligible age for a CCW permit, and a now-infamous video in which Burlison took a gun control bill to a firing range and riddled it with bullets.
Watch the video here: