Gov. Bob Holden said today that he will ban concealed weapons in state-owned or -operated buildings to ensure the safety of state employees and the public.
Holden, speaking at a news conference in St. Louis, said guns have no place on state property.
“That’s why I vetoed this reckless legislation,” Holden said. “That’s why voters rejected it in 1999.”
The ban is intended to fix a loophole in the new law — passed by the General Assembly over Holden’s veto — that will allow Missourians with permits to carry concealed weapons. The loophole would allow concealed guns in state buildings, even though weapons are prohibited now. Holden said in an afternoon news conference that he will initiate emergency administrative rules to enact the ban.
“State buildings are clearly no place for hidden handguns, just as I continue to believe that little league baseball parks and child-care facilities should be gun free,” Holden said in a news release before the conference. “This ban will help protect state employees and Missouri citizens conducting business at state facilities.”
Without the ban, concealed weapons would have been allowed in state-run facilities such as child-support enforcement offices, psychiatric facilities, the Capitol, Missouri State Fair buildings, state schools for the blind and deaf and any other state office building.
Holden said the ban does not affect law enforcement officers serving in their official capacity.
It is unclear how the ban will affect state parks. Under previous laws, guns were allowed into parks but could not be discharged.
“Logically, the law would apply to state buildings within parks,” said Sue Holst of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. “But until we actually have a draft, we don’t know for sure.”
The ban will cause no changes at Missouri National Guard armories, where signs are posted prohibiting people from carrying private firearms onto the grounds and within facilities.
The conceal-and-carry law will take effect Saturday. The governor’s ban will take effect within 10 days of being filed with the secretary of state.
The concealed guns law allows the “General Assembly, Supreme Court, county or municipality” to “prohibit or limit” the carrying of concealed firearms. That section does not refer to any gubernatorial authority to ban them.
But Holden’s chief legal counsel, David Cosgrove, said the governor’s power to impose policies affecting state buildings is granted in other parts of state law and was not specifically repealed by the concealed guns legislation.
He said the anti-gun rule will be issued through the Division of Facilities Management within the Office of Administration, which has authority to ensure that buildings are “clean, safe and secure.”
State Rep. Larry Crawford, R-Centertown, said the law does not give the governor authority to ban weapons in state buildings. He said if Holden were really concerned about safety, he would require metal scanners in buildings instead of enacting a ban.
Crawford said such bans tell law-abiding citizens they can’t bring a concealed gun onto the premises, but the deranged person out to kill someone will see that as an open invitation.
“He’s so out of touch with the safety of employees,” said Crawford, adding separately: “He has just created an atmosphere ... where criminals and people bent on mayhem know they now have a workplace that is unarmed.”
The new gun law allows Missourians 23 and older to apply to their county sheriffs for a permit to carry concealed guns. Applicants must pay $100, undergo a background check and pass an eight-hour gun safety course.
The law also allows anyone 21 or older to conceal guns in the passenger compartment of a vehicle without need of a permit.
Guns automatically are banned from such places as courthouses, police stations, bars, child-care facilities, hospitals and churches.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.