JEFFERSON CITY — A state House panel considered loosening Missouri's restrictions on carrying concealed guns by lowering the minimum age to get a permit and extending the time before a permit would need to be renewed.
Supporters say Missouri should make it easier for people to get concealed firearm permits because it improves safety. There was little opposition voiced during a House agriculture committee's hearing Wednesday about seven gun bills.
Missouri began issuing conceal-carry permits in 2004. Currently, applicants for a permit to carry a concealed gun in Missouri must be at least 23 years old, live in the state, have no felony convictions and pass a firearms training course and background check to qualify for a Missouri concealed weapon permit. That permit needs to be renewed after three years.
Several House members proposed dropping the minimum age to 21 and increasing the renewal period to five years. Another would lower the minimum age to 18.
Nationwide, more than two-thirds of states require applicants to be at least 21 years old. Others allow permits to be issued at age 18.
Rep. Mike Parson, a former sheriff in southwestern Missouri, sponsored legislation that would extend the renewal to five years but require permit-holders to get updates on new state gun laws every three years. Parson, R-Bolivar, also proposed increasing the license renewal fee to help cover those lessons.
Parson said those renewing their permits are responsible, and lawmakers should strive to smooth the process for carrying a concealed gun.
"These are not people who abuse it," said Parson.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp warned lawmakers that extending the renewal periods could create financial problems, particularly in more populous counties. Sharp said that in 2008 — the first year that Jackson County handled permit renewal — his office issued 1,950 new permits and renewed 897. Last year, the office handled 2,636 new permits and 540 renewals.
Sharp estimated that his agency would lose $36,000 per year in 2014 and 2015 when the longer renewal would first take effect.
"We're not out to make money, but I have to maintain a level of service," said Sharp, who noted that he supports allowing concealed gun permits.
The National Rifle Association supported the bills and argued that the legislation would help Missourians protect themselves.
House members also proposed allowing military training to count toward getting a state concealed gun permit and letting prosecutors who are trained bring a concealed gun into court.