A visitor leaves Columbia Public Library

A visitor leaves Columbia Public Library on Feb. 18. On Feb. 17, the library's board of trustees decided to amend the signs. The old signs did not include the phrase "unless authorized by law." 

COLUMBIA — People carrying concealed weapons will be allowed in the Columbia Public Library indefinitely, though the library's attorney is still reviewing the law in question.

Marjorie Lewis, an attorney in Columbia, said by email Monday that “we are looking into the library weapons policy and will be giving our opinion to the (library's) Board.”

The library changed its signs earlier this month after receiving a letter from Columbia attorney Jennifer Bukowsky on behalf of state Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville. The letter threatened legal action if the signs were not changed to reflect Missouri’s new concealed carry laws, which took effect Jan. 1.

While Missouri residents are no longer required to have a conceal-and-carry permit, the language of the law leaves unclear whether libraries can prohibit concealed weapons.

The controversy kicked off Feb. 2, when Toalson Reisch brought a gun, in her purse, to a League of Women Voters forum in the Friends Room of the library.

Library spokeswoman Mitzi St. John said that “until we have a statement from our lawyer then we will honor the law."

When asked to clarify, she said the library would allow concealed weapons on its premises for the time being.

Since being threatened with legal action, St. John said that the library has had no further contact with Toalson Reisch or her attorney.

St. John also said the library has received six emails from concerned patrons asking that guns not be allowed on its premises. She said the library was “paying attention” to the comments.

Readers mostly say no

The law nothwithstanding, Columbia residents have pretty strong feelings about guns in the library. When asked these questions via social media —  “How does this make you feel about using the library?” and “Will this prevent you from going to the library? Why or why not?”— most told the Missourian they'd feel less comfortable going to the library knowing there was a possibility people would be carrying hidden guns in the building.

A few took the view that people carrying guns know how to use them.

Mark Abadir, 43, said it would make him feel “better,” adding: “Those who are licensed have had some training on how to shoot.”

Actually, according to the newly enacted SB 656, Missouri residents do not legally need a permit or training to carry a concealed weapon.

Another Columbia resident, Beth Hunter, 36, said the decision to allow weapons would make her feel safer. "I fully support this action,” she wrote, adding that “It might encourage me to go read.”

The opposing viewpoint centered on feeling less safe.

Taylor Mitchell, 22, said of the decision: “That's absolutely petrifying. There are children, senior citizens, multitude of people and you're just asking for trauma. Guns aren't allowed on school property, the library acts as a school and is very much next to a school, 100 yards or less. This is not okay. Kids go there after school, no one needs a gun at a library.”

Kyle Lestina, 34, said the decision might affect his future patronage of the library. “Me, not as much. But bringing my family there — I will have to give that serious consideration. It is unlikely that we'd all go together. 1:1 adult to child ratio is about all I feel comfortable with now. I have three kids, all of us enjoy the library — this will not prevent us but it will reduce our frequency and duration of visits.”

Lewis, the library's attorney, said she would deliver her review of the law to the Daniel Boone Regional Library Board of Trustees. No information was available about when she would complete her review. The library board's next meeting is March 9.          

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed

  • Reporter for the Jefferson City News Tribune and the Columbia Missourian. Studying Print and Digital Journalism with an emphasis on international reporting.

Recommended for you

Join the conversation

When posting comments, please follow our community guidelines:
• Login with a social account on WorldTable.
• Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language or engage in personal attacks.
• Stay on topic. Don’t hijack a forum to talk about something else or to post spam.
• Abuse of the community could result in being banned.
• Comments on our website and social media may be published in our newspaper or on our website.