JEFFERSON CITY — Opponents of concealed guns joined with supporters Tuesday as the House endorsed legislation that attempts to fix a flaw in a law identified by the state Supreme Court.
In a ruling a year ago, the court upheld the legality of concealed guns but said a 2003 law authorizing concealed weapons could unconstitutionally impose new costs on county sheriffs who process the applications.
Since then, every locality in the state except St. Louis city and county has begun issuing concealed gun permits. But sheriffs had to employ a variety of creative funding mechanisms, and a cloud of legal uncertainty remains.
Legislation intended to fix the funding mistake gained initial House approval Tuesday on a voice vote with no audible opposition. Another House vote is needed to send it to the Senate.
Sponsoring Rep. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, said the bill would “protect sheriffs, and get them out from between the proverbial rock and the hard spot” created by the court ruling.
Several Democrats stressed they still opposed concealed guns but voted for the bill to protect sheriffs against possible lawsuits, such as the one challenging the issuance of concealed gun permits in Moniteau County.
Missouri’s law allows most people age 23 and older to apply to their local sheriffs for concealed weapons permits after passing a firearms training course. They must also pass a fingerprint background check and pay a fee of up to $100.
As originally passed, the law limits sheriffs to using the money for equipment and training — not for personnel or the costs of the fingerprint background checks.
As a result, the Supreme Court said, the funding mechanism could amount to an unconstitutional, unfunded mandate — a state-imposed program that requires county governments to incur new costs.
The legislation would allow sheriffs to use the money to cover all costs stemming from the concealed guns law, including the background checks and the employment of additional staff. If the $100 fee is not enough to cover a county’s costs, then the bill allows the sheriff to apply for reimbursement from the state Office of Administration.