JEFFERSON CITY — Legislation that would remove the Missouri Revenue Department from the process of printing licenses to carry concealed weapons was given first-round approval Tuesday by the Republican-controlled House concerned about new driver's license procedures.
The Revenue Department began a new process in December that requires local license office clerks to scan documents, such as birth certificates and concealed weapons permits, into a state computer system. That process has angered Republicans who say it is an invasion of privacy. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon announced earlier this month that the Revenue Department would stop scanning the weapons permits.
But the measure sponsored by Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, would leave the Revenue Department out of the concealed weapons process despite the governor's announcement. It would give county sheriffs the responsibility for printing a special card for concealed weapons permit holders.
Missouri's sheriffs already have the responsibility of receiving concealed-carry applications, reviewing applicants' backgrounds and issuing paper permits. But recipients currently take the paper permits to a local license office overseen by the Department of Revenue to receive a photo ID card noting their concealed-carry endorsement.
The Missouri Sheriffs' Association said sheriffs are willing to take over the responsibility for printing permits if the legislature provides some funding. The Senate answered that request and passed a budget bill Monday night that would give $2 million to a sheriffs' task force to fund grants to issue the licenses.
The House also adopted an amendment by Rep. Dave Schatz that would eliminate the renewal process for concealed weapons permits. Missouri law currently allows concealed guns to be carried by people age 21 and older who haven't been convicted of a felony or deemed mentally incompetent, and who pass a firearms training course and background check. But people qualifying for those permits must pay a fee every three years to renew them.
"I don't think it's necessary and I don't see the benefit," said Schatz, R-Washington, about the renewal process.
A few Democrats raised concerns that eliminating the renewal would allow convicted felons to continue using a valid permit if they commit their crime after obtaining the concealed weapons license. But Schatz said that isn't a "big enough deterrent" to continue the renewal process. He added that felons with a concealed weapon after being convicted would be guilty of a crime since state law doesn't allow them to carry weapons.
The bill needs one more vote before moving to the Senate. The Senate passed similar legislation that would allow sheriffs to issue concealed weapons licenses earlier this month.