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Columbia Missourian

Concealed gun rule unfunded

By DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press Writer
March 4, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST

The bill doesn’t say how sheriffs will pay for mandated background checks.

JEFFERSON CITY (AP)— Sheriffs who are baffled by how to implement Missouri’s concealed guns law following a state Supreme Court ruling may have themselves to thank for the confusion.

That’s because the language cited by the court as triggering an illegal unfunded mandate was added to last year’s concealed weapons legislation at the behest of the sheriffs’ lobbyist.

“I guess it’s ironic,” Jorgen Schlemeier, the lobbyist for the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, said Wednesday when asked about the language.

The Missouri Supreme Court last week upheld the legislature’s right to legalize concealed guns but said the law imposed new duties on sheriffs without covering their full costs. The law therefore violated the so-called Hancock Amendment to the Missouri Constitution, the court found.

As such, the court said four counties that presented trial evidence about costs did not have to implement the law. But the court essentially laid out a roadmap for similar cost challenges to be raised in Missouri’s 110 other counties.

At issue in the Supreme Court’s ruling is a provision requiring sheriffs to charge applicants for concealed gun permits a nonrefundable processing fee of up to $100. The law directs the money to local accounts that can only be used for law enforcement equipment and training.

Sheriffs therefore cannot use the money to pay for the required fingerprint and background checks or for the personnel needed to handle the applications, the court said.

Yet the language limiting the money to being spent on law enforcement equipment and training was not in the original bill filed last year by Rep. Larry Crawford, R-California. He said it was added at the request of Schlemeier.

Schlemeier said his fear was that county officials would try to tap into the fund for roads or other uses, or that some people would use the money for pay raises or new patrol cars. The intent was to limit only the use of any extra money not needed for background checks or processing costs, Schlemeier said.

“I didn’t contemplate the Supreme Court would read it quite the way they did,” Schlemeier said.

Crawford recalled that the sheriffs wanted to have the potential to make money on the concealed weapons applications — and to keep what they made.

“They said, ‘We need money for equipment and training,’” Crawford said, “and I said, ‘conceal-carry would be more than happy to donate any overage to that.’”

To try to comply with the court’s ruling, Crawford is sponsoring legislation this year that would allow the funds to be spent on any costs reasonably associated with processing the permits. His bill is awaiting a House committee hearing — the first step in the legislative process.