Senate trumps Holden

Bills on abortion and concealed guns will become Missouri laws in 30 days.
Friday, September 12, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:05 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Overriding two vetoes by Gov. Bob Holden, state lawmakers on Thursday granted most Missourians the right to carry concealed guns and imposed new restrictions on women seeking abortions.

The Senate’s 23-10 vote to override the concealed guns veto met the bare minimum required for a two-thirds majority and reversed the outcome of a statewide election on the issue four years ago.

Moments later, the Senate voted 25-8 to override Holden’s veto of a bill requiring women seeking abortions to wait 24 hours after consulting a physician.

The House successfully voted to override Holden’s vetoes of both bills Wednesday. The Senate’s concurrence means the measures will become law in 30 days without the need for Holden’s signature.

The votes mark the first time in Missouri history that lawmakers have overridden governor’s vetoes on two separate issues in the same year. Prior to Friday, just three vetoes had been overridden since the Civil War.

Holden called it an “unfortunate day” for “those people that have fought on the issues of choice and to protect our children from gun violence.”

“I stood for the things I believe in, and I’ll stand for them every day,” Holden said while also expressing an eagerness to put the two controversial issues behind him.

But Republican legislative leaders — expecting a third veto override Friday in the House on another gun-related bill — said the override votes show Holden is out of touch with the views of most Missourians, a theme likely to be used in the 2004 elections.

“It’s been a historic day,” said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau. “It’s a reassertion of the vast middle mainstream of Missouri against this governor who has adopted a series of extremist positions.”

Missouri becomes the 45th state to allow concealed guns in some fashion, although nine sharply restrict permits, according to the National Rifle Association.

The fight to legalize concealed weapons has been long and bitter in Missouri. Lawmakers had been rebuffed for years by former Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan when they finally agreed to put the issue to a statewide vote in April 1999. The ballot measure — the first ever in the nation on the issue — was rejected by 52 percent of the vote, with strong urban opposition overcoming rural support.

Legislators passed a new bill this May that was vetoed by Holden, who cited the 1999 election as his reason.

“This is a complete disregard of the citizens of the state of Missouri,” said Senate Minority Floor Leader Ken Jacob of Columbia, a Democrat, as the Republican-led Senate overrode Holden’s veto.

But gun-rights advocates said this year’s bill was far more restrictive than the 1999 measure — setting the highest minimum age in the nation and requiring much more extensive firearms marksmanship and safety training, among other things.

“I am absolutely convinced that it is the safest bill that we are ever going to have in this state,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Michael Gibbons, a St. Louis County Republican who voted against the bill during the regular session but switched his vote to override the veto.

Gibbons, whose district overwhelmingly opposed the 1999 measure, said he changed his mind after a careful review of laws in other states, concluding concealed guns helped deter crime without any increase in citizen shoot-outs.

He also said he was convinced that gun-rights advocates would win a veto-proof Senate majority in an upcoming special election for a vacant seat, so supporting the bill now could prevent an emboldened majority from pushing through a less restrictive concealed guns law next year.

Even with Gibbons’ support, however, the Senate override would have fallen one vote short if Sen. Jon Dolan — another suburban St. Louis Republican — had not been able to obtain leave from his military duty. His presence at the Capitol was uncertain until early Thursday morning.

The Senate also voted 23-10 Thursday to override Holden’s veto of a bill barring governments from suing gun manufacturers. That bill still must go to the House, which is expected to vote on the override Friday.

During the regular session, the House voted 118-41 for the bill, indicating the 109 votes needed for an override are likely to be obtained.

After debating the guns bills for a couple of hours, the Senate quickly voted to override Holden’s veto on the abortion bill. As part of the one-day wait, both the doctor and woman must sign a consent form stating they have discussed any physical, psychological or “situational” risk factors of having an abortion.

Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis, criticized colleagues for not including an exemption to the waiting period for women who had been victims of rape or incest.

“This is outrageous, outrageous,” she yelled during the brief floor debate.

Abortion also was the subject of the last successful veto override. In 1999, lawmakers overrode Carnahan’s veto of a bill intended to prohibit certain late-term abortions known as “partial-birth” abortions. The law is facing a legal challenge.

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