|Posted on Thu, Feb. 07, 2002 p. B6||
Gun rights supports cool to
concealed weapons bill
JEFFERSON CITY - A proposal to allow Missouri residents to travel with a gun hidden in the glove compartment or under the seat of their vehicles received a chilly reception Wednesday from gun rights advocates.
The advocates told a House committee that the bill did little to help people defend themselves and diverted attention from proposals that would legalize the carrying of concealed weapons.
Chris Meissen of West Plains, Mo., called the proposal a subterfuge designed to avoid a showdown with the governor.
"This is just an attempt by the majority party to avoid embarrassing a governor of their party," Meissen said.
Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, has said he would veto legislation to legalize concealed weapons. But he has declined to say how he would handle limited changes to the concealed-weapons law, such as allowing guns to be carried in glove compartments of cars.
Current law allows guns to be transported in a car as long as they are in plain view. But critics complain that the law is unwieldy because of local ordinances in several cities that prohibit the open display of a firearm.
Democratic Rep. Wayne Crump of Potosi, the House majority leader, is sponsoring a bill that would legalize concealed weapons. But the governor's veto threat makes it unlikely such a bill will become law, he said.
As a potential compromise, Crump introduced the bill allowing weapons to be concealed within a vehicle. Current law allows non-residents who are passing through the state to have weapons concealed within a vehicle. So the bill would give Missouri residents the same right given to residents of other states, Crump said.
"This might be the best we can do," Crump said. "Even the Republicans on the committee can see that."
But gun rights advocates appearing at the committee consider Crump's car-carry bill something of a betrayal of the cause. Kevin Jamison, a Gladstone attorney who is vice president of the gun rights group Missourians for Personal Safety, said the bill represented such a small step that it concedes too much power to the governor.
Pro-gun lawmakers let former Gov. Mel Carnahan's threat to veto concealed carry legislation frighten them into doing nothing, Jamison said. Lawmakers, he said, should find out whether Holden's threat is real by forcing him to consider a broad concealed-weapons bill.
"He doesn't want the newspapers and the television stations to see him vetoing it, because he knows those pictures will be all over Missouri at election time," Jamison said.
The reaction left some members of the Sportsmanship, Safety and Firearms Committee perplexed. Rep. Carson Ross, a Blue Springs Republican who supports concealed weapons, said the advocates should have said they supported both the car-carry bill and a broader right to carry a concealed weapon. Testimony on the broader right-to-carry bills is scheduled for next week.
"We're a friendly committee, and they even turned us off," Ross said with a chuckle. "They seem to want it all or nothing. We're saying: Sometimes you have to take incremental steps."
Ross said little is gained by passing legislation that faces a sure veto.
"At least this bill corrects a flaw in the law that brings our own residents to parity with residents of other states," Ross said. "And it's something that the governor could sign without violating his commitments to his constituency."
The car-carry bill is HB 1344. Legislation is available on the Missouri General Assembly site on the Internet at the following address: http://www.moga.state.mo.us
To reach Kit Wagar, Jefferson City correspondent, call 816-234-4440
or send e-mail to email@example.com.