The right of a Columbia resident to carry a concealed firearm might end at the front door of city buildings.
The new state law allowing certain Missouri residents to carry concealed weapons allows each municipality to decide whether to restrict that right in city buildings.
Tonight, the City Council will take its first look at a proposed ordinance that would ban firearms in City Hall and other city buildings for everybody except police officers.
The proposed ordinance would affect those who have been permitted to carry a concealed weapon by Missouri or any other state. The city’s ordinance, however, would not be extended to public housing, highway rest areas, firing ranges and private dwellings controlled by the city.
The proposal comes amid safety concerns by city officials. City Manager Ray Beck said council debates can become heated, and concealed firearms would make the council chambers a less safe environment. Beck cited incidents in which mayors and council members in other states with right-to-carry laws have been shot during meetings.
“I think it’s good to protect the citizenry as much as possible,” Beck said.
Columbia’s proposed ordinance would be in accordance with the state statute, which does not allow municipalities to make it a crime to bring a concealed weapon into a city building, even with the proper permit. Under the proposed ordinance, the city would be allowed to require individuals carrying concealed weapons to leave the building. Those who refuse would be charged only with trespassing.
Columbia’s current ordinance prohibits carrying guns in city parks, discharging firearms and brandishing “deadly and dangerous weapons” within city limits. To comply with the new state law, the definition of “deadly or dangerous weapons” will be amended to no longer include firearms. Concealed firearms will be permitted in city parks, as long as the gun owner has a permit from the sheriff’s department.
City Councilmen Jim Loveless and Brian Ash declined to comment on the proposed ordinance because they had not read it yet. Other council members could not be reached for comment.