Missouri Press Association prepares to fight gun bill

Thursday, September 5, 2013 | 8:11 p.m. CDT; updated 9:04 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 5, 2013

COLUMBIA — The Missouri Press Association said Thursday that if the General Assembly overrides the governor's veto of The Second Amendment Protection Act next week, it will file an injunction to stop its effects.

Missouri House Bill 436, which would reject all federal laws infringing on the right to bear arms, also would make it illegal for the names of gun owners to be published.

“No person or entity shall publish the name, address, or other identifying information of any individual who owns a firearm or who is an applicant for or holder of any license, certificate, permit, or endorsement which allows such individual to own, acquire, possess, or carry a firearm,” the bill reads.

The bill would make the publication of these names a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $1,000. In addition, if the court decided that the offender made any “gain” from publishing the name, that person could be fined up to $20,000.

“If your legislator wants you to run his column, and if he is a gun owner, you could be prosecuted,” said Jean Maneke, MPA legal hotline counselor, in an online column on the Missouri Press Association website. “If a local resident wants to run an ad, and he owns a gun, it will be a crime if you include in the ad his name, phone number, address or any other identifying information.”

Board members of the Missouri Press Association met Thursday and decided unanimously that the injunction would be necessary if the legislature were to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto.

“All newspapers are very concerned,” Maneke said, noting that the Missouri Press Association has received phone calls from papers across the state. “But it’s more than newspapers. It’s anyone who publishes in the state. There’s a strong argument that the language of the bill as it stands is unconstitutional.”

Gary Castor, managing editor of the Jefferson City News Tribune and a supervising editor at the Columbia Missourian, said that other newspapers have contacted him too, asking how he’s planning to proceed.

“We’re obviously concerned about the far-reaching effects this law could have on reporting news,” Castor said. “And clearly, we believe it would unfairly infringe on First Amendment rights.”

Columbia Missourian Executive Editor Tom Warhover called the bill’s section on publishing names “ludicrous.”

“If it gets overridden, we’ll work on the local delegation to get out the portion that essentially outlaws naming names,” Warhover said.

And so for now, the watchdogs just wait.

Supervising editors are Stephanie Ebbs and Gary Castor.

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