‘Fix’ to gun law stalls in House

An amendment to the conceal-and-carry laws would die if not passed before Friday.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:14 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

Time is running out for Missouri legislators to amend conceal-and-carry laws.

Some House representatives and senators are hoping to pass a so-called “Hancock fix” to Missouri’s conceal-and-carry laws before Friday, the end of this year’s legislative session. However, some legislators are not optimistic about the likelihood that the bill will pass before then.

Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, said the fix and the bill that it amends was moved from the legislature’s “formal schedule” to an “informal schedule” that “prevents any discussion of the fix.”

“It basically will die,” he said.

The fix would allow sheriffs to use application fees for gun permits to finance “all reasonable and necessary costs” associated with the application process, including necessary applicant background checks. The law said new duties would be imposed on sheriffs without having their costs covered, making it an unfunded mandate. Sheriffs had hoped to offset these costs by using application fees, but when the Missouri Supreme Court upheld all aspects of conceal-and-carry in February, it said application fees could only be used to pay for law enforcement equipment and training.

“At this point, it is incumbent upon the legislature to help sheriff’s departments across the state,” Harris said in a press release. “If we act before session ends, we can prevent unnecessary lawsuits against sheriffs relating to the financing aspect of the application process.”

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon introduced the language of the fix 72 hours after the Supreme Court made its rule on conceal-and-carry, but the legislature has paid little attention to it.

Can't explain

“There are certain people who would prefer to keep this issue alive as a political issue,” Harris said. “I’m at a loss to explain why we (the legislature) are unwilling to help Missouri sheriffs.”

Rep. Larry Crawford, R-California, who introduced the fix to the legislature, said some House and Senate members think that “things are going pretty well, so we’ll worry about the fix next year.”

Crawford said he did not think the fix would be passed before the end of the session, in part because Gov. Bob Holden has said he would veto it.

Scott Holste, spokesman for Nixon, said Nixon felt a “sense of frustration” with the amendment’s inaction in the legislature.

“It is frustrating that this has not been taken care of,” Holste said. “It puts sheriffs in a bad situation.”

The law said sheriff’s departments could delegate the task of issuing permits to police departments, which is what happened in Hallsville and Ashland. The Hallsville Police Department began issuing permits on March 19, and the Ashland Police Department began issuing on May 1.

The Columbia Police Department has not taken on the responsibility to issue permits. Boone County Sheriff Ted Boehm said he would not issue permits unless the Hancock fix was passed.

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