Boone County sheriff to hold off for now as ruling causes confusion

Friday, February 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:48 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Despite Thursday’s ruling that upholds the constitutionality of Missouri’s conceal-and-carry law, Boone County Sheriff Ted Boehm said he will hold off on issuing permits.

Boehm said he will follow the advice of Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, who suggested in the wake of Thursday’s ruling by the state Supreme Court that sheriffs should wait until lawmakers address whether the law imposes unfunded mandates on Missouri counties before issuing permits.

“I think that’s the correct thing to do,” Boehm said. “And that’s what I plan to do.”

The Hancock Amendment to the Missouri Constitution prohibits the state from passing laws that impose new requirements upon counties without providing the mechanism to pay for them. A fee of up to $100 would fund the cost of issuing concealed gun permits. The new gun law requires permit holders to undergo a background check by the Missouri Highway Patrol, which costs $38.

That’s where the problem lies for Boone County, Boehm said. According to the new law, permit fees are to be paid into the sheriff’s revolving fund, which can only be used by law enforcement agencies to buy equipment and provide training. Boehm said that appears to mean he cannot use proceeds from the fee to pay for the background checks.

“If you go back and read the law that was passed, their intent was, or I think their intent was, that the $38 that the highway patrol was going to charge to process the applicant was going to be taken out of the $100,” said Boehm.

In Thursday’s ruling, the state’s high court did not address the issue of whether a county’s governing body can elect to fund the extra costs voluntarily from other county revenue sources. But Boehm made it clear that is not an option he would support.

“No,” said Boehm, “Not when my budget is cut for sheriff’s equipment.”

Meanwhile, local supporters of the new law, which was was enacted when state legislators overrode a veto by Gov. Bob Holden, praised Thursday’s ruling.

“We’ve been waiting for 13 years,” said Doug Grindstaff, operations manager for Target Masters, a Columbia sporting goods store. “We are glad that the Supreme Court ruled in our favor and we believe that they made the right decision. And now the lives of Missourians will be worth as much as the lives of citizens in the other 45 states that allow conceal and carry.”

In addition to allowing Missourians of age 23 and older to receive a permit to carry concealed guns, the new law entitles Missourians of 21 and older to conceal guns in their vehicles without a permit. Boehm said he would abide by that provision in the law, which does not impose an unfunded mandate on counties.

Lee Brandkamp, owner of Powder Horn Guns and Sporting Goods, said sportsmen will no longer have to fear being arrested for concealing hunting rifles in their vehicles.

“There’s times that I do hide my hunting guns in my vehicles, just so thieves can’t see them,” he said. “What this is going to do is make a lot of honest people legal.”

Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, who along with other local legislators expressed disappointment with Thursday’s ruling, said that allowing adults to conceal guns in cars could lead to more serious road rage incidents.

“To me that was the most dangerous provision of the bill and that remains in effect,” Jacob said.

Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, suggested that Boone County may want to follow Camden, Cape Girardeau, Green and Jackson counties, which successfully argued that the new law imposed unfunded mandates and were exempted by Thursday’s ruling from having to issue permits.

“I would assume that Boone County would choose to sue,” Wilson said.

Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said that given the state’s budget problems, he’s worried that funding the gun-permitting process will divert money from other programs.

“I would hope that wouldn’t be the highest priority in a tight budget year ... when we are closing down schools and increasing tuition costs,” he said.

Boehm said he had discussed with county legal advisors the possibility of claiming that a $100 fee would not be sufficient to cover the cost of administering the new law in Boone County. But, he said, “I’m not going to commit one way or another.”

Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm, who in the past has said he opposed authorizing Missourians to carry concealed weapons, said he still has “some issues” with the new law. But, barring any further delays, the city’s officers will abide by it.

“What has changed is that our job as law enforcement officers is to enforce the laws as they are, as they exist,” he said. “Once this goes into effect, that is what we will do.”

—- Missourian reporter Gaurav Ghose contributed to this story

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