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Gun injunction’s scope questioned

Some lawmakers argue the injunction only affects St. Louis.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:49 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

ST. LOUIS — Legal experts say a St. Louis judge’s injunction blocking Missouri’s new concealed guns law applies statewide, though some lawmakers who support the measure think the ruling is valid only in St. Louis.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer on Friday issued the injunction, a ruling that Attorney General Jay Nixon immediately appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. Lawmakers adopted the concealed weapons law in September by overriding Gov. Bob Holden’s veto.

Ohmer’s temporary injunction on Oct. 10 halted the law one day before it was to take effect. His ruling Friday made the temporary injunction permanent.

State Reps. Richard Byrd, R-Kirkwood, and Bryan Stevenson, R-Joplin, think sheriffs outside St. Louis should be able to issue concealed-guns permits despite the injunction.

Byrd said only the city of St. Louis should be affected because the only sheriff listed as a defendant by plaintiffs was St. Louis Sheriff James Murphy.

“Those sheriffs are not bound by the judge’s order. Only the parties before the court are bound by an injunction at the trial court level,” said Byrd, who has a juris doctorate from Washington University and is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Stevenson claims that Ohmer overstepped his authority and that the state Supreme Court is the only court that can issue statewide injunctions.

But legal experts — including Nixon — disagreed.

John Ammann, director of the Saint Louis University Legal Clinic, said the sheriffs are only a “minor part of the lawsuit” and Ohmer was within his authority to stop the law.

“Here’s the bottom line: What the judge did was strike down a state statute and he strikes it down for everybody,” Ammann said. “It’s not only for the city of St. Louis.”

Ammann said it also helped that the state of Missouri and Nixon were named as defendants. Ohmer’s injunction stops the state and Nixon from enforcing the new law, Ammann said.

Nixon said his office on Monday asked the Supreme Court to expedite the case. He hoped arguments would be in the next few weeks.

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