Sheriff, police wary of gun law

The sheriff wants to pass responsibility on to local police.
Tuesday, September 16, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:42 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A new law allowing Missouri citizens to carry concealed weapons is only a few days old, but Boone County Sheriff Ted Boehm is already worried that his department might not be able to handle the additional duties.

“I think there is a lot for us to do,” Boehm said. “I know our role is going to take more work than issuing the permits.”

More than 60,000 Missourians are expected to apply for permits for concealed guns once the law, which was passed Thursday over the veto of Gov. Bob Holden, takes effect Oct. 11.

Had Holden not vetoed the bill, the concealed guns law would have taken effect Aug. 28, giving officials three months from the end of the legislative session to prepare for it.

But bills made law by veto overrides automatically take effect 30 days after the Legislature’s vote, thus shortening the preparation time.

The legislation allows adults age 23 and older to apply to their county sheriffs for concealed gun permits.

Boehm intends to lessen the burden on his department by using a clause in the new law that allows county sheriffs to pass on the responsibility of issuing permits to local police departments.

“I think any law enforcement official in any agency should have the right to issue this,” Boehm said.

But Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm isn’t sure he and his department want the job. Chief Boehm said the sheriff’s department’s system for issuing gun permits could probably be modified to issue concealed weapons permits as well.

“My main concern is just how time-consuming this would be for the staff,” said Chief Boehm, who expects to make a decision about his department’s role in the permitting process next week.

Sheriff Boehm acknowledged that the sheriff’s department’s computer system for issuing gun permits could handle the new task easily with a few changes.

Also at issue, if the police department takes over some or all of the responsibility for issuing concealed weapons permits, is who receives the $100 processing fee required by the law. The decision whether the funds would go directly to the police department or be put into a general fund would be made by City Manager Ray Beck. Even if the money were to go directly to the police department, it would barely cover the cost of administering the new law, Chief Boehm said.

Centralia Police Chief Sam Hartsell also isn’t sure if he and his department want the job of issuing permits, although he is willing to consider ways to help out.

“I realize that if the sheriff’s department bears full responsibility, it would be a burden for them,” Hartsell said, “and I want to help in any way possible.”

Hartsell said he will need more information about how the new law will be administered before deciding how much assistance to offer the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.

Complicating matters for local law enforcement is the state’s method of identifying those who have been issued permits to carry concealed weapons.

Jim Vermeersch, executive director of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, said the association is developing a standard application form and certificate to be used by sheriffs when Missouri’s program begins. It will be the only official documentation available until the state starts noting concealed gun permits on driver’s licenses July 1.

Not surprisingly, given their longtime opposition to the new law, local police officers and sheriff’s deputies are wary of the prospect of having more handguns on the street.

Chief Boehm is worried that it could make the job of arresting suspects with firearms harder for his officers.

Before the law, when officers suspected somebody of having a firearm on the street, they had cause to approach them and arrest them. But now, police will have to identify those who have the right to carry and those who do not, Chief Boehm said.

“There is an awful lot in there that needs to be worked on statewide,” Sheriff Boehm said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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